From left: Mel Arnold, Conservatives; Kyle Delfing, People’s Party of Canada; Shelley Desautels, Liberal; Andrea Gunner, Green; and Ron Johnston, NDP, are the five candidates vying for the North Okanagan-Shuswap seat in the Sept. 20, 2021, federal election.

From left: Mel Arnold, Conservatives; Kyle Delfing, People’s Party of Canada; Shelley Desautels, Liberal; Andrea Gunner, Green; and Ron Johnston, NDP, are the five candidates vying for the North Okanagan-Shuswap seat in the Sept. 20, 2021, federal election.

North Okanagan-Shuswap candidates on electoral reform, Truth and Reconciliation

Q&A: The five candidates respond

  • Sep. 14, 2021 10:00 a.m.

Meet your candidates vying for the North Okanagan-Shuswap seat in the Sept. 20 federal election.

This week, the five candidates provided a brief biography and answered the first of three questions asked by Black Press:

What are your thoughts on reforming Canada’s electoral system, is there an alternative system that you support and why?

Mel Arnold – Conservative Party of Canada

I believe that freedom to assess and discuss the state of our electoral system is essential to ensuring our democracy is healthy and functioning at an optimum level.

As we assess possible options for electoral reform, I believe that we should not endorse any new system that would weaken the link and accountability between Members of Parliament and the constituents they represent. These are key elements of Canada’s parliamentary democracy that hold representatives to account and provide citizens opportunities to choose the representatives and proposals that they wish to support.

Unlike the failed 2015 Liberal campaign promise for electoral reform without a public referendum, I believe a national referendum must be held prior to implementing any future electoral reforms, so that all Canadians can voice support or opposition for what is being proposed.

I also believe that Canada’s democracy could be strengthened if Canadians were allowed to elect all Parliamentarians of both the Upper and Lower Houses, not just the House of Commons. If a province chooses to hold Senate elections, Canada’s Conservatives will appoint Senators chosen through this process.

Kyle Delfing – People’s Party of Canada

Some political parties would have you believe proportional representation is needed; they see it as an easy way to get power. Myself, I have seen a small party that can influence our government even when holding limited power.

Over the last 20 years, the Liberal and, more recently, the Conservative Party of Canada proved this, having adopted numerous policies based on the ideology of the Green Party and NDP to retain power.

They believe they will win more power assimilating to the competition rather than risk bringing a new product to the voter.

New products like the People’s Party of Canada’s proposal to stop the Vaccine passport system from being implemented are too risky for politicians who want to keep their jobs rather than serve the Canadians who elect them to lead.

With first-past-the-post, political parties are forced to be competitive, and they must perform at their best in a minority situation.

Reform our education and our culture concerning politics. Encourage more Canadians to participate in our democracy. Participating in the democracy we have will make our voices heard.

By taking up a role in a political party, Canadians will create a better government before and after election day.

Shelley Desautels – Liberal Party of Canada

I would be interested in deeper consideration of which system or systems would be best for Canada while honoring our traditions of fairness and good government.

One challenge we need to keep in mind when discussing electoral reform is the ability to get things accomplished.We see that in minority governments, it is often difficult to govern in a timely manner as opposition parties can grind progress to a halt.

This often results in vital legislation dying on the order paper.

Whatever system is used needs to be effective, efficient and fair in order to serve all Canadians

Andrea Gunner – Green Party of Canada

I support proportional representation for several reasons:

• Canada covers a huge area and has many diverse regions.

• The first-past-the-post system guarantees that B.C. votes aren’t even counted by the time the winning party is declared. Also, this system leaves 55-60 percent of voters underrepresented, commonly leading to feelings of alienation for voters outside of Ontario and Quebec.

• Minority and coalition governments appear to prioritize their constituents’ needs rather than prioritizing party policy. This leads to better outcomes for the population. The countries that typically score the highest on the annual Gallup poll measuring health and well-being of the citizenry are all minority or coalition governments.

Ron Johnston – NDP

Its very clear to me that election after election, far too many voters in our riding and across Canada are disenfranchised and feel that their vote doesn’t count.

Justin Trudeau and the Liberals promised 2015 would be the end of first-past-the-post elections in Canada, but then backed away from that promise as soon as they won office.

Electoral reform is about improving accountability and making government work for the people. Not just winning the day in politics.

I am committed to electoral reform. It is time to stop talking about it and take action to improve our democracy. New Democrats will bring in mixed-member proportional representation that works for Canada – and we will get it done in our first mandate.

We also believe it’s time to lower the voting age to 16. Our young people deserve to have a say in the decisions that will shape their future.

Read more: Meet the North Okanagan-Shuswap candidates

Read more: North Okanagan-Shuswap candidates talk climate action, pipelines at Vernon forum

Read more: VIDEO: North Okanagan-Shuswap candidates share plans to boost workforce

Do you support the Truth and Reconciliation Commission’s 94 calls to action and how would you encourage the federal government to follow through on them?

Mel Arnold – Conservative Party of Canada

The Truth and Reconciliation Commission of Canada (TRC) was established in 2008 by the Conservative government of the day and the TRC’s 94 calls to action were released in 2015.

When the remains of 215 Indigenous children were confirmed in unmarked graves at the former Kamloops residential school, I promptly wrote the prime minister and minister of Crown-Indigenous Relations, and pressed them for a timely and meaningful commitment from the government to identify, protect and honour the children in line with the TRC’s calls to action. These overdue steps are essential to healing that we need to move Canada forward towards reconciliation.

On June 7 in the House of Commons, I voted in support of a motion that called on the Trudeau government to accelerate implementation of the TRC’s calls to action. While MPs from all opposition parties supported this motion, the prime minister and all his cabinet ministers abstained from voting.

Since being elected in 2015, I have built working relationships with Indigenous communities across the North Okanagan-Shuswap. I have consistently engaged with Indigenous leaders to hear directly from them, what the needs and priorities of their communities are to best-inform my advocacy on their behalf in Ottawa.

Kyle Delfing – People’s Party of Canada

Yes, I support the Truth and Reconciliation Commission’s 94 calls to action. The People’s Party of Canada would go one step further. We cannot rewrite the past but only seek the best way to live together harmoniously in the future. The People’s Party of Canada is proposing to eliminate the Indian Act.

The People’s Party of Canada would work with aboriginal Canadians and their leaders to find a fair way out of the Indian Act, bringing aboriginal Canadians equal to Canadians.

This move would allow more ownership of reserve communities, opening opportunities for growth and development. The Indian Act is out date and segregates Canadians based on their skin colour. The People’s Party understands all Canadians deserve to be treated fairly and to be equal. I believe this would be a tremendous 95th point in the Truth and Reconciliation Act.

The People’s Party of Canada stands for Personal Responsibility, Individual Freedom, Respect and Fairness. We will work hard to keep Canadians strong and free from racial or medical segregation.

It is time to bring unity to Canada.

Shelley Desautels – Liberal Party of Canada

I absolutely support the Truth and Reconciliation Commission’s 94 calls to action, and it is imperative that the federal government continue working towards their accomplishment.

We have been putting in hard work to end the long-term water advisories on reserves; we have lifted 109 and have 51 in progress. Every single long-term water advisory that was in place when we were elected in 2015 has been lifted. We have also made significant progress on the calls to action 1 through 5 which deal with child welfare. In July, Cowessess First Nation became the first nation to control its own child welfare system, and there are already discussions with other nations to do the same. The Liberal government is committed to work with Indigenous people to deliver solutions that are built upon consultation and are culturally appropriate. For example, in our own community, the federal government and the Shuswap Nation Tribal Council signed an agreement that will implement traditional Secwepemc Laws in the Secwepemc Nation which aligns with Call to Action 50. These highlight only a small number of action items that the Liberal government has completed, and there is still much work to be completed.

Andrea Gunner – Green Party of Canada

As disturbing as the finding of the unmarked burial site of 215 children at T’Kemlups was, I am more concerned with the ongoing apprehension of at risk Indigenous children in this riding. Indigenous children account for less than 8 per cent of Canadian children but over 50 per cent of children in care. The province of Manitoba has found that supporting the family network is more effective and leads to better health and well-being outcomes, compared to apprehension and removal. The number of children in care and the costs associated have declined each year over the four years since the Manitoba program began.

Access to safe drinking water is a basic human necessity. The Liberal government has failed to eliminate over 50 long-term drinking water advisories on public water systems on First Nations reserves by March 31, 2021, committed to in the 2015 election campaign. The nitrate levels of the Hullcar aquifer have failed to meet Canadian drinking water standard consistently since 2014. This affects both Splatsin and non-Indigenous residents, especially harmful for pregnant women, young children and those who are immune compromised.

Finally, stop paying government lawyers to fight the Canadian Human Rights Tribunal order to pay compensation to the Indigenous victims of Canada’s long-standing discriminatory child welfare policies.

Ron Johnston – NDP

In 2015 the Truth and Reconciliation Commission released it’s final report including 94 Calls to Action for government. Six years later our leaders have yet to implement the vast majority of them. To make matters worse, the Liberals have been taking Indigenous children and residential school survivors to court in attempt to turn over the Canadian Human Rights Tribunal that has already ruled in their favor.

New Democrats and I will implement all 94 Calls to Action from the Truth and Reconciliation Commission. We will work to build a true nation-to-nation relationship, based on recognition of Indigenous rights, reconciliation and equal funding.

That includes fully funding the exploration of former residential institution sites, and $500 million to support Indigenous-led stewardship programs to advance reconciliation and protect the land, water, and forests that are critical to our common environmental goals.

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Election 2021