Two-term incumbent Colin Mayes was on the hot seat as the federal candidates faced off for the first time.
Most of the questions from the crowd of about 130 people, as well as comments from the other parties present, were directed towards the Conservative candidate during the Vernon Clergy Fellowship forum at All Saints Anglican Church Thursday.
“The Harper government has been obsessed with secrecy,” said Janna Francis, Liberal candidate, adding that the Conservatives shut down Parliament twice to avoid being accountable to the House.
Greig Crockett, Green candidate, took aim at a cabinet minister’s decision to alter a document that called for funding for an aid organization.
“Maybe KAIROS has been treading on sacred ground against the ideology of the prime minister?” he said.
Mayes defended the government’s record, saying that it introduced the accountability act to deal with lobbying.
He also criticized the opposition for how they operate in parliamentary committees.
“The other guys are playing politics. We aren’t getting anything done,” he said.
“Instead of asking intelligent questions, they throw mud and see if it sticks.”
Differences also surfaced when the candidates were asked about the justice system.
“Everyone thinks all we want to do is put people who break laws into jail, but there must also be rehabilitation,” said Mayes.
“Violent crime is up and we need to get people who aren’t going to live by the laws and incarcerate them.”
Francis, a former executive director of the Elizabeth Fry Society, slammed the construction of more prisons.
“It doesn’t change behaviour. It makes behaviour worse,” she said, adding that there is a need to address the root causes of crime, such as poverty and a lack of education.
A retired lawyer, Crockett pointed out that many people in jail are aboriginal or cope with mental health issues.
“They need love, they don’t need punishment. They need nourishing,” he said.
“We need to develop their potential, not throw them in jail.”
The discussion also included the economy and how the parties would help low-income residents.
“We will cancel the tax cuts for corporations. We will prepare for the jobs of tomorrow,” said Francis referring to green technology.
“Our economy impacts every aspect of our lives. We all want to know our government makes wise decisions with tax dollars.”
The NDP is calling for the economy to be stimulated by reducing small business taxes and providing credits for job investment.
“The NDP will provide increased benefits for families struggling to survive,” said candidate Nikki Inouye, who was unable to attend but provided written responses to the questions provided to candidates in advance.
“We will deliver affordable housing to Canadians.”
Crockett says the Greens believe in equitable taxation and a sustainable economy that looks long-term.
“We would have fair wages, Employment Insurance and labour representation,” he said.
Mayes says the Conservative government has had a direct impact on low-income Canadians.
“Our government has lowered taxes and put money into families so they can survive,” he said, adding that money has also gone into job training.
“We’ve led the world in economic recovery.”