Rarely at a political all-candidates forum does any candidate receive a standing ovation for an answer to a question.
Harwinder Sandhu bucked tradition in Vernon on Sept. 26.
The North Okanagan-Shuswap riding NDP candidate drew a standing O from more than half of the 140 people in attendance at the forum, conducted by the Sustainable Environment Network Society (SENS) at Vernon’s Schubert Centre, for her answer to a question from a pastor.
“Is there any comment that you would have on sustainability, resiliency and the environment (forum topic) for any leader or party platform that is not your own?”
“I’ve always had the utmost respect for the candidates, as it takes a gutsy person to run in a provincial or federal election,” said Sandhu. “I have a lot of respect for (Liberal candidate Derkaz) Cindy in this riding. I really hope this riding, one day, will elect a woman or a woman of colour.
“(Prime Minister Justin) Trudeau has been much more accepting of people like myself, unlike previous leaders we’ve had or some who are still trying to get into power. It would be nice if we could just all work together collaboratively instead of having four more years of going back and forth on issues.”
Candidates faced 22 questions from the floor and one write-in question, read by moderator Betty Selin, on a wide variety of environmental topics.
With the forum less than 24 hours away from a climate strike organized by Vernon and Coldstream youth Sept. 27, the candidates were asked by one woman for a show of hands as to how many of them have shown their support for the youth and the climate action movement.
Sandhu, Derkaz and Green Party candidate Marc Reinarz raised their hands.
Incumbent Conservative MP Mel Arnold said his calendar has not allowed him to take part in the strikes.
“I’m typically booked up doing two roles and calendar conflicts have pre-empted from being able to attend,” said Arnold. “It’s not that I don’t want to attend, it’s just that I’m busy.”
People’s Party of Canada candidate Kyle Delfing said he attended previous strikes but “it wasn’t clear that I supported it, I guess.”
“I did ask to participate but wasn’t allowed to,” said Delfing. “I will be at the one tomorrow (Sept. 27) like I was at the one in Salmon Arm, but I probably won’t be in the front but at the back.”
Arnold and Delfing had many questions directed solely to them, including one to Delfing from a high school earth sciences teacher, who questioned him on a Facebook post that Delfing made four months ago, wondering if early snowfall in the mountain passes meant the climate crisis was a hoax, and the teacher wanted that comment explained.
“Glad you enjoyed my sarcasm,” said Delfing. “No, we’re not in a climate crisis, absolutely not. We don’t believe it. There is climate change, but it’s not a crisis.”
Derkaz was asked what she has done to reduce her carbon footprint in the last year.
“My family has got rid of our gas-powered vehicles and we’re driving electric vehicles,” she said. “We’ve also committed not to travel for vacations by air. We’re vacationing at home, reading books at Hidden Lake, 50 kilometres from home, driving there and back and charging the car.”
A question was asked of the candidates about the use of plastic on their election signs. Reinarz said he bought signs that would last much longer.
“I purposely did not want to use a sign I can only use once,” he said. “My name is on it in such a way a rectangular sticker can be used on it next time if needed. But you haven’t got rid of me yet. My name will be on it for a while.”
Pre-forum questions e-mailed to the candidates could be found at the back of the auditorium, complete with answers. Those questions and answers can also be found on the SENS website.
Editor’s note: Harwinder Sandhu’s photo was inadvertently left out of a candidate’s profile page in the Oct. 2 issue of The Morning Star. We sincerely apologize for the error.