Pubdate: Wed, 23 Sep 2015
Source: Penticton Herald (CN BC)
Copyright: 2015 The Okanagan Valley Group of Newspapers
Author: Roy Wood
Page: A3


A wide-ranging series of questions and answers at Monday's Penticton
Herald election forum provided a broad if not deep overview of the
positions of the candidates in South Okanagan West Kootenay and their

For two hours, New Democrat Richard Cannings, Liberal Connie Denesiuk,
Conservative Marshall Neufeld and the Green party's Samantha Troy took
questions from a panel of six area journalists. The subjects ranged
from economic policy to the environment, international relations,
seniors housing, the legalization of marijuana and beyond.

Moderator James Miller, editor of the Herald, wrangled the candidates
and journalists, keeping proceedings running smoothly and on time. The
event was carried live on Peach City Radio and can be viewed on the
Herald's website.

Miller pointed out that, because of time constraints, independents
Brian Gray and Doug Pederson were not invited to the event at the
Penticton Lakeside Resort.

The candidates began with opening statements.

Cannings promised an NDP government would rid the country of the
"politics of fear and division" visited on it by Stephen Harper's
Conservative government.

He also pledged to: end the growth of the income divide; lower taxes
on small business while making large corporations pay a little more;
introduce an affordable child care program; create a universal
pharmacare program; kickstart the economy while protecting the
environment; tackle climate change; repeal the anti-terrorist Bill
C-51; and bring in proportional representation so that "everyone's
vote would count."

Troy, who became the Green party candidate less than a week ago,
worked mostly from the written party platform and talking points.

Her opening statement was predictably focused mainly on the
environment. Having worked in forestry and tourism, she said she has
seen the effects of climate change up close: melting glaciers; massive
landslides; wildfire devastation; and reduced snowpacks.

"People, profits and the health of our plant are all interconnected,
and we are running out of time," she said. "Partisan politics and
business as usual will not lead to a sustainable future."

Neufeld said his desire is to "serve the people of the riding" and
then doubled down on his long association with former MP and
Conservative cabinet minister Stockwell Day.

He said he worked as a volunteer for Day and subsequently spent 2 1/2
years working as his parliamentary assistant in Ottawa.

"Stockwell set an example I intend to follow," he said.

He pointed to his service on the national council of the Conservative
party and as vicechair of the Penticton Christian School Board.

"I will speak up for legislation that continues to put you first
allowing for individual choice and less regulation by government . . .
(I) hope to build on conservative principles of providing strong
economic leadership, expanding free trade and keeping our communities
safe," he said.

Denesiuk opened two themes to which she would return several times:
leader Justin Trudeau and the Liberal pledge to increase
infrastructure spending by some $60 billion over 10 years.

She said Canada is "faltering" on the international

"We are rattling sabres instead of brokering peace, which (has been)
our traditional role."

She said she has been an advocate for decades, as a school trustee and
official in national and provincial trustees associations. Being an
advocate for the citizens of South Okanagan-West Kootenay is her goal.

Once the questions began, candidates were limited to 60-second answers
and rebuttals.

The first question, which elicited "oohs and aahs" from the audience
of 400, went straight to Neufeld's evangelical Christianity, asking
what role his religion would play in his politics.

He deflected the question, pointing out only that for each vote a
member of Parliament makes, there are three considerations: the
party's position; interests of the constituents; and one's conscience.

Denesiuk offered that "as a person of faith myself," she appreciates
that people have different views and it is important to respect

Cannings said religion and politics are not compatible.

Troy pointed out that Greens in Parliament are "completely un-whipped"
and are free to vote their conscience on every vote.

A question on the need for affordable seniors housing offered the
candidates a chance to strut their seniors policy.

Cannings pointed to the NDP's proposed Affordable Housing Act, which
will help all people struggling with high housing costs.

Denesiuk returned to the infrastructure promise, which includes $20
billion for "social infrastructure," which has housing "at the top of
the list." She added the Liberals' pledge to raise by 10 per cent the
Guaranteed Income Supplement for cash-strapped seniors.

Neufeld mentioned several provincial housing programs that were
implemented with help from the federal government and pointed out that
under the Conservative government, the GIS has risen significantly in
recent years.

Troy read from the Green party platform touting help for seniors
housing and a universal pharmacare program.

Neufeld was forced to defend the Conservative government's plan to
raise the age to receive Old Age Security to 67 from 65.

He pointed out that it would not take effect until 2023 and even then
will be introduced gradually.

Denesiuk said Liberals would retain the 65 kickoff for OAS and the
Guaranteed Income Supplement.

A clear divide appeared between Neufeld and the three progressive
candidates around a question about murdered and missing aboriginal

Cannings and Denesiuk both said a government under their parties'
banner would launch a national inquiry into the issue.

Cannings described the question as "one of the real social justice
issues facing Canada" and said "we need to fix the relationship
between (First Nations) and the federal government."

Denesiuk called a national inquiry "not a solution, but a first step."
She said a Liberal government would also work on all the
recommendations of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission.

Troy urged attention toward "root causes."

"(These women) need homes and jobs," she said.

Neufeld defended the Conservative position that enough studies have
already been done and his party sees the matter as a criminal one and
has responded by increasing police budgets and the penalties for

On the question of Senate reform, Neufeld said that as a former Reform
party enthusiast, he believed in either a "triple-E" (equal, elected
and effective) Senate or, failing that, abolition.

Stockwell Day and his Conservative colleagues were thwarted on Senate
reform, said Neufeld, first by the opposition in Parliament and later,
after achieving a majority government, by the Supreme Court of Canada.

Cannings said the NDP believes in a "triple-A Senate - abolish,
abolish, abolish." He also took the opportunity for one of the few
kidney punches of the night, referring to "Mr. Neufeld's friend Mike

Denesiuk used the question to once again mention Trudeau, who several
months ago ousted Liberal senators from the Liberal caucus, forcing
them to sit as independents. She said a Liberal government would
appoint an expert, non-partisan panel to select able and appropriate

Whether the so-called Islamic State poses a threat to Canadians showed
clear differences between the parties.

Cannings said that while "ISIS is a barbaric and horrific
organization," he is "not aware of any threat to Canada." He said we
should not be participating in the war against ISIS, but rather
concentrating on humanitarian aid to help repair the situation in the
Middle East.

Denesiuk said that while she doesn't think there are Islamic
terrorists "behind every bush in Canada. . . . It is something we need
to be aware of."

A Liberal government would cease the country's participation in the
bombing in Syria and Iraq, and try to help "through the United
Nations" and concentrate on helping refugees, she said.

Neufeld insisted that "Islamic extremism is one of the greatest
threats to the world today" and ISIS has directly threatened
Canadians. He said they have tried to infiltrate the waves of refugees
heading to Canada and elsewhere.

"We will help," he said, "but we will not sacrifice security to do

Neufeld mounted a vigorous defence of his party's humanitarian policy
as it relates to the conflict in Syria. He said 2,500 Syrian refugees
have been admitted to Canada so far and the government is committed to
20,000 more.

He said the government is focused on bringing in the most vulnerable
refugees, particularly religious minorities who face extra dangers in
refugee camps.

Denesiuk said 2,500 is "woefully inadequate" and pointed to Trudeau's
pledge to significantly increase the numbers, but offered no specifics.

Cannings said an NDP government would admit 10,000 by year's end and
9,000 per year after that.

The muzzling of federal scientists is a myth, according to Neufeld,
but a real problem in the minds of the other members of the panel.

To a chorus of guffaws from the audience, Neufeld contended that
federal scientists are "allowed to answer media questions about their

Cannings countered that he has invited scientists from the
Agricultural Research Station in Summerland to speak at various
events. However, they have had to decline, he said, "because they are
not allowed to utter the words 'climate change.'"

Again evoking her leader, Denesiuk said Trudeau has promised a
government that is "open by default." She reiterated a Liberal promise
to bring back the longform census.

A double-barrelled question about plans for marijuana laws and whether
the candidates had used pot elicited a testy response from Neufeld.
While saying he has never ingested cannabis, he said, "I hope we can
go back to important issues" like the economy and security.

"We don't see (marijuana) as an important issue in this election
cycle," he reiterated.

Cannings and Troy admitted to having ingested marijuana, although the
NDP candidate emphasized it was on a "small number of occasions" in
his youth.

The New Democrats favour decriminalization of possession of the drug
and monitoring how things go in U.S. states that have opted for
legalization. Troy and Denesiuk see legalization as the preferred option.

A question asking "who is your moral guide on questions of civil
liberties?" elicited a variety of interesting responses.

Neufeld cited William Wilberforce as his moral guide. He was an 18th-
and 19th-century English politician whose place in history focuses on
his efforts to end the transAtlantic slave trade. He was also, like
Neufeld, an evangelical Christian.

Troy related a story from her youth when her mother had some house
guests from a boat that had put ashore in New Zealand.

She said she visited the ship and it was the Rainbow Warrior, sailed
by early members of Greenpeace in pursuit of environmental causes.

Cannings opted for Henry David Thoreau, the 19th-century American
philosopher whose essay Resistance to Civil Government argued in
favour of civil disobedience in the face of an unjust state.

Denesiuk said her moral guide is "my dad. . . . He's the wisest guy I

As to the service Canada Post provides, particularly its move away
from home mail delivery, Neufeld said Conservatives believe in a
hands-off approach and that "Canada Post must balance its budget by
whatever means it sees fit."

Denesiuk lamented the gradual elimination of small-town post offices
as gathering places and said the Liberals would halt any more cuts.

Cannings said the NDP would move to retain door-to-door mail delivery,
and that Canada Post can be profitable and wouldn't need to be subsidized.

Denesiuk was asked directly about her presence in the campaign as a
"spoiler candidate" who will take progressive votes from the NDP,
particularly since the Liberals scored less than 10 per cent in the
2011 election.

She responded that this election is "completely different" from 2011,
pointing out that this time there is no incumbent, there is a large
undecided vote, the Liberals have Trudeau as their leader and the NDP
doesn't have the charismatic Jack Layton at its head.

Citing the fact that Canada has been in a technical recession, a
questioner asked the candidates how they would make up for the lost
economic contribution of the energy sector.

Neufeld cited manufacturing and international trade as vital
components and pointed to 43 international trade deals accomplished by
the Conservative government.

"One in five jobs (in Canada) are related to exports," he

Cannings dismissed the Conservative international trade efforts as
"good for corporations" but not for jobs for Canadians.

He said that development of new technologies, particularly green ones,
is key to creating new jobs and prosperity.

Troy agreed that trade deals are good for corporations but not
ordinary folk. She suggested that diversification of the economy and
doing more processing at home are key. She pointed to shipping raw
logs overseas for processing as short-sighted and detrimental.

At the end of the questions from the media panel, moderator Miller
asked the three Penticton-based candidates for their views on the
controversial decision by city council to have waterslides built in
the publicly owned Skaha Lake Park. Denesiuk said simply, "Save the
park." Cannings allowed that he loves waterslides, but "I don't think
they should be in that park."

Neufeld objected to the notion of federal candidates being asked about
what is a "rezoning question." He said he believes the process that
led to the decision was flawed.

There were precious few issues on which all four candidates agreed,
but they all lauded the CBC, particularly the Radio One service, as a
vital communication and social institution for the country.
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MAP posted-by: Matt