NDP candidate Nikki Inouye fields a question during an all candidates forum at the Performing Arts Centre Tuesday.

NDP candidate Nikki Inouye fields a question during an all candidates forum at the Performing Arts Centre Tuesday.

Candidates tackle voter apathy

Those wanting to represent Okanagan-Shuswap in Ottawa admit politics may be turning people off.

The four candidates running in the May 2 election were asked how to address voter apathy during a forum at the Performing Arts Centre Tuesday.

“We want MPs to communicate respectfully and to deal with the issues,” said Liberal Janna Francis, who is concerned about conflict in the House of Commons.

She also took aim at the Conservatives before a crowd of about 100 people.

“The Harper government has been obsessed with secrecy,” she said.

Francis believes there is a need to make Question Period more substantive and to limit the prime minister’s ability to shut down Parliament.

For Green candidate Greig Crockett, the Conservative government has abused its power.

“The committee structure is being ignored by the prime minister,” he said.

“Withdrawing the mandatory long-form census introduces ignorance to government. Scientific information is being ignored by the government.”

Crockett says the entire governance system needs to be overhauled and there should be proportional representation.

“It has been introduced around the world. Their governments are more responsive,” he said.

Conservative Colin Mayes placed blame for a dysfunctional Parliament on the opposition.

“We need to take the cameras out of Question Period because politicians are performing,” he said.

“You can lie in Question Period and not be taken  to court.”

Mayes defends the government’s actions by saying it has introduced an accountability act, has created an ethics commissioner and has provided more power to the auditor general.

“Not one red cent is missing under the Conservative government.”

In terms of apathy and encouraging people to vote, NDP candidate Nikki Inouye believes there is a need for more awareness.

“We need to educate our youth. Our kids need to know the history behind the vote,” said Inouye of the fact that women and minorities once could not cast ballots.

“We need to remind our kids that people in other countries risk their lives to go to the polls. The one time we have a say is at the polls.”

Mayes was put on the hot seat when someone from the audience stated that it had taken a year to get an appointment with the MP.

Mayes says his office staff do a good job of dealing with constituents, and his duties require him to be in Ottawa to represent the riding.

“I’m gone half the time and not available,” he said.

Those comments brought a sharp response from Francis.

“We need to work on the issues of importance to you (voters),” she said of elected officials.

“If we don’t know the issues of importance to you, we can’t take the issues seriously.”

Inouye also blasted Mayes for not being in the riding more often.

“You need to be in your office and constituency,” she said.

“You need to go to the coffee shops and community centres. There are lots of issues that need addressing.”

Some questions also revolved around the military and Crockett was asked about Canada’s role in Libya’s civil war.

Crockett said the role of the Canadian military should be to protect the Libyan people and not regime change.

“The Green Party would prefer United Nations involvement when there is international intervention.”