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All-Candidates Forum at J.L. Crowe -- Six Candidates, Six Questions

Left to Right: Dick Cannings, Connie Denesiuk, Carolina Hopkins, Tara Howse, Helena Konanz, and Sean Taylor

REPORT:  Federal Candidates Each Answer Six Questions

All-Candidates Forum at J.L. Crowe, October 9, 2019:  They were lined up in alphabetical order -- Dick Cannings for the NDP, Connie Denesiuk for the Liberal Party, Carolina Hopkins as an independent candidate, Tara Howse for the Green Party, Helena Konanz for the Conservative Party, and Sean Taylor for the People’s Party.

After a brief introduction by teacher Mr. Colin Adamson, Grade 11 students Caleb Clement and Eben Sirges moderated the session.  Each candidate was given three minutes to introduce themselves, then other students were called up to ask the questions.

Highlights from the introductions:

Dick Cannings -- NDP, the incumbent standing for re-election, is a biologist, and he confessed that “politics was never part of my life plan.” He explained that he originally stood for election to be a “voice of science in the House of Commons” and wanted to give progressive voters someone to speak for them. He managed to get three bills passed into law – one that supports the forest industry, one that added protection to some of Canada’s waterways, and another directed at protecting endangered species.

Connie Denesiuk – Liberal,spent 19 years as a school trustee, and serving on the board of Okanagan College. She said, “I never forget the interests and voices of those I represent.”  She emphasized the importance of jobs, and repeated the Liberal party’s claim to have “lifted 300,000 children out of poverty” and noted Trail is important to her, and that she opened a campaign office in Trail (her other campaign office is in Penticton).

Carolina Hopkins – independent, is originally from the Yukon, as is her Haida-born husband. She has a varied employment background, owns property in Salmo, is currently self-employed, and describes herself as resourceful and creative, and declares “every life matters.”  She is an advocate for the vulnerable, and says she has a “strong environmental background.”

Tara Howse – Green Party, said she is running because of the “erosion of democracy” over the past few decades, largely the result of corporate influence in politics. She said that as a Green MP, she would put constituents’ needs ahead of corporate interests. She urged people to read the Green party platform and described it as “a long-term vision.”

Helena Konanz – Conservative, spent seven years as a Penticton city councillor, referred to her tennis championship and coaching history, and said that she “knocked on 32,000 doors” to meet and hear people; she said they are worried about the economy and the cost of living, such as groceries.   She declared, “I am the only candidate who will advocate for resource-based jobs.”  She added, “I want to celebrate mining here.”

Sean Taylor – People’s Party,has served in the military, was deployed to Afghanistan, and works with Interior Health as an emergency nurse. He said, “Why am I here?  I think our country has taken a turn.  I have concerns about it.”  He stated that he had “finally found a party whose leader’s policies resonate with me.  We have a different view of things than the other candidates here.”

The first question:  How would you  make the housing market more affordable?

Liberal Connie Denesiukwas invited to answer first.  She answered with the Liberal’s plan to “give people up to ten percent off the price of their first home,” and to implement a tax on vacant homes owned by non-resident foreigners.

Independent Carolina Hopkins answered that she would like to see more affordable housing, and “other housing options.”  She said we need more trained tradespeople.

 Green Party’s Tara Howse stated that the Green party is very supportive of co-operatives, and would encourage more co-op housing.  She also approached the issue from another perspective and said the Green Party wants to eliminate tuition for post-secondary education, so that university grads are not burdened by debt – and would be in a better position to save for a home.

Conservative Helena Konanz responded, “We’ll make sure that the good-paying jobs continue.” She went on to declare that we cannot treat smaller rural communities differently, and that rural communities must have a voice in Ottawa.

People’s Party Sean Taylordeclared that the country needs “to get rid of a lot of the red tape – get rid of government regulation.”  He also stated that there’s “too much immigration,” implying that more people coming into the country drives the high cost of real estate.

NDP Richard Canningsstated that the problem must be addressed;  the NDP would get 100,000 units of affordable housing built, and would remove the GST for building rental housing.

Second question:  What is one way your party will address climate change, that’s different or better than the others?

Hopkins  advocated for “nature-based solutions” and encouraged everyone to look it up, and how it could transform forestry, agricultural practices, urban planning, and so on.

Howse stated that the Green Party’s climate plan is different from the others in that it meets the Paris targets; “It’s a beautiful plan, check it out.”

Konanz said the Conservative plan “doesn’t jeopardize anyone’s jobs.”She explained, “We believe in technology, not taxes.”

Taylor declared that “Solar farms and wind are not going to do it, because of intermittency.”  He encouraged people to look up ITER, a multi-national project attempting to create a fusion power generator.  [Ed.: Canada is not one of the nations currently involved in the ITER experiment.]

Cannings stated that the NDP would create a “climate bank” that would support an interconnected power grid, to transfer clean energy among provinces to smooth out demand and supply differences; he declared that the NDP plan would create new jobs for clean energy and addressing community resiliency, and that the plan would not adversely affect incomes.  He said the NDP plan would also meet the Paris objectives.

Denesiuk  criticized the NDP and Green Party plans, calling them “too expensive” and saying, “Our plan is realistic.”  She went on to challenge Taylor, saying that her home has solar panels, which have “cut our electricity bills in half.”

Third Question:  Electoral System – does your party support proportional representation?

Howse declared that the Green Party has always supported proportional representation.

Konanz  said, “this has already lost twice” in BC.  She added, “We don’t think this can ever happen without a referendum.”

Taylor said the People’s Party does not support proportional representation; he admitted that first-past-the-post is not ideal but said he thinks it’s “the best way to preserve democracy.”

Cannings stated that the NDP would work to bring in mixed-member proportional representation, because it makes every vote count, and engenders cooperation and collaboration; “We need to work together on big problems like climate change.”

Denesiuk  supports a ranked ballot[Ed.: ranked ballot is not a voting system, or a system of proportional representation; it can be used with a number of voting systems.]

Hopkins said shesupports Proportional Representation.

Fourth Question:  How will you support reconciliation with Indigenous Peoples?

Konanz said that she personally supports reconciliation and has worked to advance economic development for local Indian bands in her area.

Taylor said he supports abolishing the Indian Act;  “It’s time to move forward and bring them into the fold.”

Cannings declared that reconciliation is one of the most important issues facing Canada, and that “we must support initiatives to support indigenous culture.”  He wants the United Nations Declaration on Indigenous Rights (UNDRIP) to be implemented, which, he said, the Liberals have not done.

Denesiuk  cited her own local actions in support of Indigenous interests; she says she ensured that the “next chair and vice-chair of the Okanagan College Board of Governors were Indigenous,” and mentioned that during her time on that body, the graduation rate of Indigenous students doubled.

Hopkins supports reconciliation and inclusion: “We’re all in this together.”

Howse and the Green Party want to include UNDRIP in law and address all of its recommendations.  She also wants to implement the recommendations in the Report on Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Girls. 

Fifth Question:  Do you support a ban on single-use plastics across Canada?

Taylor:  “No.  The free market will take care of that.”

Cannings:  “The free market created this problem and isn’t about to fix it.”  He stated that government action is necessary, and referred to the enormous problem of massive quantities of plastics dumped into the oceans.

Denesiuk said she favours banning most single-use plastics, and that much responsibility falls on consumers.

Hopkins agrees to a ban on single-use plastics, “if we can find something that works better.”

Howse supports a ban, and supported the City of Rossland’s bylaw restricting plastic check-out bags.  She pointed out that we are still subsidizing fossil fuels, which are used to manufacture plastics.  She mentioned that during a visit to Celgar, she was told that anything made of plastic could be made from “bio” instead.

Konanz   [Ed.: I was unable to decipher her comments at the forum, and have been unable to find any material suggesting that the Conservative Party supports any action to limit single-use plastics.]

Sixth and Final Question:  In what important way would you support the youth of our area?

Cannings said that topping the list are environmental protection and dealing with climate change; then, addressing affordability.  To do these things, he emphasized the need to “stand up to the big corporations.”

Denesiuk said politicians need to listen to youth.  She said she would set up a Youth Council in this area, and one in the South Okanagan, so that youth could bring their ideas.

Hopkins echoed that idea, pledging more engagement with youth. “You are the future,” she said.

Howse said she has been speaking with the local Youth Action Networks, and would focus on climate change, transportation, inclusion of  2SLBGTQQIA people, workplace safety, and healthcare.

Konanz  expressed concern about the lack of mental health services for youth, and said that needs to be addressed.

Taylor didn't seem to respond to the question, but warned the audience against the UN Agenda 21 and Agenda 2030  [Ed.: see links; they are both non-binding international agreements to address poverty, health issues, climate change, sustainable development, and so on.]  Taylor also declared that the free market and fossil fuels “have reduced poverty more than anything else in the history of our species.”

The forum ended then and students had to move to their next classes.