North Okanagan-Shuswap residents got their first side-by-side look at their riding’s federal candidates in their first all-candidates forum of this election campaign.
The Armstrong Centennial Theatre was at near capacity Wednesday night as questions were thrown to the five candidates following their two-minute opening statements.
The event, hosted by the Armstrong Chamber of Commerce, saw a wide range of topics, candidates spending time on some topics that were predictable — taxation, climate change — and lingering on some that were perhaps less so — gun control, immigration and the efficacy of the justice system.
The current state of B.C’s forestry industry was another concern raised, as candidates were eager to convey their support of the industry to a community that saw reductions announced at the Armstrong Tolko mill earlier that day.
NDP candidate Harwinder Sandhu is from Mackenzie, a town that’s been rocked by recent mill shutdowns, and she spoke to her connection to this community.
“My family relied on sawmills, and forestry was the backbone of many towns like Mackenzie and Terrace,” Sandhu said.
Green candidate Marc Reinarz also sympathized with mill workers, and blamed poor industry management decisions for the current economic downturn.
“We have mismanaged forestry in the sense that we’ve been exporting raw logs to the extent that we were dumping them down to the U.S., and today mills are crying for product which they can’t afford anymore,” Reinarz said.
A resident’s question on the candidates’ plans to protect future generations by mitigating climate change drew applause from the crowd.
Sandhu and Reinarz were joined by Liberal candidate Cindy Derkaz in calling for significant attention be paid to the climate change file, each propping up their respective party’s platforms.
“I’m running as an advocate for the environment, and I think in situations of farms in this area we are going to have tremendous changes in climate and weather that’s going to affect your crops,” Derkaz said.
Derkaz spoke to the need to, “stay with the program,” to stick with the Liberal Party’s environmental plan including commitments to the Kyoto and Paris accords.
For Conservative Party candidate Mel Arnold, who’s held the seat for the last four years, the night was about proving that he and his party are serious about environmental policy.
After fending off accusations from a few public questioners that he’d suggested climate change wasn’t human-caused back in 2015, Arnold took multiple opportunities to advocate for the climate plan his party unveiled in June.
“Andrew Scheer, our leader, has rolled out our real plan for climate change and the environment. It deals with incentives and innovation in Canada that we can market across the world,” Arnold said.
The issue of gun control — too much of it — was put to the panel.
People’s Party of Canada candidate Kyle H. Delfing was the most strongly in favour of firearm sovereignty and repealing Bill C-67.
“It’s no good for farmers,” he said.
Derkaz was adamant the legislation is not an unreasonable restriction on guns.
“I want to bust the myth that (we’re) going into people’s homes and taking away firearms,” she said.
Delfing — a political candidate first-timer — was quick to clarify his position.
“They’re legislating the guns out of your hands, they’re not taking them.”
Candidates will meet again at the environmental all candidates forum on Thursday, Sept. 26, at the Schubert Centre in Vernon. The free event is scheduled for 7 to 9 p.m.