Vernon-Monashee Liberal candidate Eric Foster (right) answers an audience member’s question while Conservative candidate Scott Anderson ponders the response during an all-candidate’s forum Monday night at the Vernon Performing Arts Centre.

Vernon-Monashee Liberal candidate Eric Foster (right) answers an audience member’s question while Conservative candidate Scott Anderson ponders the response during an all-candidate’s forum Monday night at the Vernon Performing Arts Centre.

Partnerships put candidates at odds

Candidates square off on P3s at Vernon and District Performing Arts Centre Society forum

Eric Foster thinks private-public partnerships work well.

Mark Olsen is fundamentally opposed to them.

The two candidates gave different points of view to an audience question at a Vernon-Monashee riding all-candidates forum Monday night, hosted by the Vernon Performing Arts Centre Society.

Lumby Mayor Kevin Acton directly asked NDP candidate Olsen about his thoughts on P3 partnerships, which is a deal between governments and one or more private companies, and moving forward with them in the province.

“I’m fundamentally opposed and the rationale is, from what I’ve seen, is we have 30-year contracts with health authorities for a hospital that we can’t see what the details (of the contracts) are,” said Olsen, though he did concede that the new Monashee Mews senior care facility in Lumby, built through a P3 deal, “is very good.”

“There is then an obligation placed on taxpayers for 30 years to pay that company for running hospitals as they are contractors of government.”

Foster, the incumbent Liberal nominee for the riding, challenged Olsen’s answer.

“Public-private partnerships moved us forward in the construction of building hospitals and Monashee Mews in Lumby,” said Foster. “Those projects are delivered on time and on budget because those contracts are worked out in the finest detail before they are signed.”

Going along with Foster was Conservative Party candidate Scott Anderson.

“I can’t believe I’m saying this but I agree with Eric,” said Anderson. “P3s make sense.”

Rounding out the quartet in the debate was independent Korry Zepik.

Green Party candidate Rebecca Helps did not participate.

Close to 150 people attended the forum, which lasted two-and-a-half hours with a 20-minute intermission. Written and audience questions were directed to a specific candidate, and each candidate had three chances to challenge or respond to a question during both halves of the forum.

One of the recurring themes was the environment. Foster was asked if he would be willing to go to a referendum on the proposed Northern Gateway Pipeline, so all British Columbians could have a say.

After Foster begrudingly said yes (“governments are elected to govern and sometimes have to make tough choices based on the best information we have,” said Foster. “We can’t go to referendum on every contentious issue.”), Zepik – whose platform is based primarily on climate change – quickly held up his challenge card.

“These pipelines, if they go through, may not be  the last nail in the (Liberals’) coffin, but it will be the last nail needed,” said Zepik.

“If you choose the pipelines, you turn your back on our childrens’ lives, and give them a more miserable life. We need to think long and hard about that.”

Olsen was asked if his party would join five other provinces and consider a ban on cosmetic pesticides.

“We would implement a ban on cosmetic pesticides,” said Olsen. “We don’t want our kids playing on fields and getting sick.”

Anderson was questioned about legalizing cannabis.

“It’s easier for the kid across the street to buy a joint than buy a beer, so clearly what we’re doing is not working,” said Anderson.

“It’s not quite as simple as legalizing marijuana. Something has to happen but there are a lot of questions that go with this kind of thing.”

Anderson was asked by an audience member about concerns over vote splitting.

He claims one poll that he is aware of has the Conservatives in second place in the riding.

“As we get closer to the election, our chances in this riding are rising and we know that,” said Anderson. “Those holding your noses about voting Liberal the past few elections, never mind because we’re ahead of the Liberals in this riding.”

The only question directly given to Zepik was about how he would improve being able to trust a politician and get more people interested in the election.

“We need to get more people voting,” said Zepik. “We can start with a need to cut back MP and MLA raises so there isn’t so much wallet motivation as there is interest in doing some good. “We need electoral reform. It’s important  to get people motivated.”

Candidates faced a total of 30 questions from the audience.

There is another all-candidates forum tonight in Lumby at the White Valley Community Centre starting at 6 p.m.