More than 400 were in attendance at the all candidates forum held at the Vernon and District Performing Arts Centre Tuesday, Oct. 8, to hear from the five candidates competing for the North Okanagan-Shuswap. (Caitlin Clow - Vernon Morning Star)

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

Labour shortages, climate crisis, interprovincial trade and more were discussed

Hundreds were in attendance at the all-candidates forum held at the Vernon and District Performing Arts Centre Tuesday night as the five candidates competing for the North Okanagan-Shuswap seat in Ottawa spoke about hot-topic issues ranging from climate change to pipelines and taxes to electoral reform.

The forum, which was hosted by the Greater Vernon Chamber of Commerce and the performing arts centre, was moderated by CBC’s Daybreak South host Chris Walker. There, 410 people had an opportunity to hear what the party representatives stood for and were able to ask their questions, albeit time was limited and many questions were left unanswered.

The candidates agreed on issues like removing interprovincial borders that limit or prevent movement of labour, goods and services and that Canadians all have the right to protest.

Pipelines, climate and energy sector

Climate action strikes have been filling the headlines with hundreds upon hundreds showing up in the North Okanagan alone. The candidates all said they respect and support Canadian’s right to protest, but perspectives differed when it came to the future of the country’s energy sector.

Cindy Derkaz of the Liberal Party of Canada said the party she represents has already taken a big step by purchasing the Trans Mountain Pipeline and the Liberals “are determined to build that pipeline.”

Meanwhile, incumbent Conservative candidate Mel Arnold said his party is proposing a coast-to-coast corridor allowing for one-time approval processes and the movement of not only oil and gas but hydroelectricity and other natural resources.

“The national energy corridor the Conservatives are proposing is going to end up another pipe dream for Canadians,” PPC’s Kyle Delfing said. Instead, he turns back to the Constitution, “which allows the federal government to exert authority over any provincial jurisdictions in a matter of national interest, which would be pipelines.”

“You cannot be a climate leader if you build pipelines,” Green Party candidate Marc Reinarz said. “You cannot declare a climate emergency on Monday and buy a pipeline on Tuesday.”

Reinarz said there are other things the government should be worried about, such as the opioid crisis, mental health issues and homelessness. NDP candidate Harwinder Sandhu said her priority is protecting the coastline and Indigenous rights and she worries about the influence corporations have on consultations undertaken by the energy sector.

“No to pipelines and no to fossil-fuel subsidies,” she said.

Interprovincial trade

When asked about what parties had in mind to improve the movement of labour, goods and services in Canada, Reinarz answered first calling for rules to be adapted to remove barriers “that shouldn’t exist between provinces.”

PPC’s Kyle Delfing said the idea of interprovincial trade is already covered in the constitution in section 92.1. The party he represents looks to uphold that by creating an interprovincial trade agreement similar to the one between B.C. and Alberta with the rest of Canada allowing for goods and services to move freely across the country “without having to re-certify.”

Arnold said the Okanagan has an abundance of wine and beer that can’t be sold in Ontario liquor stores, “those are the types of things we’ve been working on,” he said. The same can be said about trade certificates and provincial regulations, “recognizing there are some safety issues that we have to consider.”

Derkaz agreed with her competition recognizing the interprovincial borders needs to be abolished, especially when it comes to training and certification with tradespeople, doctors and specialists.

“I am prepared to roll up my sleeves and get to work across party lines,” she said. “No one is getting ahead by having barriers in Canada.”

“We don’t have to wait to be in the government or opposition, as long as you hold a seat and you’re passionate to make the change and that’s how you address your constituents,” NDP Harwinder Sandhu said. “I will be that person to do that.”

Labour shortages

In response to labour shortages, Delfing said, “Keep the borders open and make sure we’re getting the right people,” he said. The PPC plans to lower immigration rates, but will otherwise look to “acquire people who have the right skills.” The party says that only 26 per cent of immigrants and refugees who come to Canada are chosen for their qualifications and work experience, and they plan to raise that to 50 per cent.

Arnold underscored the importance of investing in young Canadians rather than increasing taxation, forcing them out of the country to find work.

“Let’s look at temporary foreign workers,” Derkaz said, noting processes could be made easier for skilled foreign workers to obtain permanent residency while aiding the labour shortages experienced across Canada.

Sandhu agreed saying more money needs to be invested in training and paths need to be created for temporary foreign workers to get immigration.

“If they want to work and contribute to our economy, hey, why not?” she said. “It will help them and it will help our farmers and we do have that plan in our platform.”

Reinarz said the Greens will support temporary foreign workers by ensuring their rights will be protected just as any other worker in Canada.

North Okanagan-Shuswap voters will take to the polls on Oct. 21 to make their decision. But advance polls start this Friday, Oct. 11. Those interested in casting an early ballot can find out where to vote by visiting elections.ca.

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