Mel Arnold, Cindy Derkaz, Kyle Delfing, Harwinder Sandhu, Marc Reinarz and moderator Adam Meikle at the Chamber of Commerce all-candidates meeting on Thursday, Oct. 10. (Cameron Thomson/Salmon Arm Observer)

Candidates address carbon tax, Pharmacare and immigration at Salmon Arm forum

North Okanagan-Shuswap contenders discuss issues on voters’ minds

North Okanagan-Shuswap candidates once again shared their stances on several hot-button political issues at an all-candidates forum in Salmon Arm.

The event was hosted by the Salmon Arm Chamber of Commerce at the Prestige Harbourfront Resort on Thursday, Oct. 10. All five candidates vying for a seat in Parliament attended: Mel Arnold representing the Conservative Party, Liberal candidate Cindy Derkaz, Harwinder Sandhu of the NDP, Green Party candidate Marc Reinarz and Kyle Delfing from the People’s Party of Canada.

Following opening statements from each candidate, the question and answer period began. Candidates were asked a total of 12 questions which were each answered by two candidates selected at random. The far-ranging questions included topics such as carbon tax, the softwood lumber industry, free post-secondary education, immigration, Pharmacare, pipelines, climate change and more.

Read more: EDITORIAL: Considering the promises

Read more: Meet the North Okanagan-Shuswap candidates

Answering the carbon tax question first was Sandhu who said her party would keep the tax the way it is and said it is one way of fighting climate change. Sandhu went on to say the NDP has other initiatives as well, including a ban on all single-use plastics by the year 2022.

Also answering the question was Arnold who said the opposite.

“We’ve seen that the carbon tax isn’t working,” remarked Arnold, who went on to say that in recent years Canada has fallen farther away from the emissions goals set by the previous Conservative government in the Paris climate accords. Arnold also told the audience the Conservatives plan to tackle climate change on a global scale by lowering the emissions of other higher polluting countries like India and China.

The next question was whether the Liberal Party and People’s Party would support free post-secondary education. Derkaz was the first to answer.

“I would dearly love to see our party platform include a promise for free education; it’s not in there – not this time,” she said.

Derkaz went on to say the Liberal government plans to provide relief on student loan interest rates.

In response, Delfing declared “nothing the government gives you is free, it’s taxpayer funded.”

Delfing explained that a PPC small government policy would make the cost of living, the cost of operating a business and the cost of operating a university lower.

“We are not going to entertain the kind of policies that are being asked about here because due to the fact that the funding has to come from you,” Defling told the crowd.

The next question posed to candidates was how they would handle immigration. Sandhu responded first, drawing from her personal experiences.

“Immigration is a big contributor to our economy,” she said. Sandhu went on to say an NDP government would find a place for skilled immigrant workers in Canada and at the same time wants to tackle the backlog of immigrants.

Delfing got his chance to speak on this issue and defend his party’s stance from what he called a racist rhetoric.

“It’s just a number reduction, we’re going from 350,000 to 150,000. We’re not saying stop the immigration, we’re saying get the immigration under control,” Delfing said.

The next question posed was about a national Pharmacare program. Reinarz responded first by saying it is the biggest chunk of policy the Green Party wants to put in. The program would be made possible by taking away subsidies from the oil and gas industry.

Arnold didn’t state whether his party was for implementation of such a program, but said he wanted to make sure there are no unintended consequences like conflicts created by existing private healthcare services.

Read more: NDP calls out Okanagan Green candidates for views on abortion

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

Next up was the question of public or private ownership of pipelines. Sandhu responded quickly saying the NDP would not fund anymore pipelines but then doubled back to the previous question of a national Pharmacare program.

A nurse, she said that while Pharmacare would be expensive upfront, the cost savings in people not making repeated visits to the hospital when they have not taken the medication they cannot afford.

Marc Reinarz made the Green Party’s stance on pipelines clear.

“Let them own it and let them do with it what they want with the sections of pipelines they have now but the Green Party will not support any expansion,” Reinarz said.

Reinarz also said he respects the workforce already employed in the oil and gas industry but wants to create jobs that will guide the industry towards renewable energy.

The final question of the night was asked to all five candidates and each were given two minutes to answer. The question was how each party would address the need of infrastructure, housing, schools and clean water for indigenous communities

Read more: Federal candidates in North Okanagan-Shuswap voice views on forestry fixes

Read more: North Okanagan-Shuswap candidates to practise three R’s with campaign signs

Arnold said he wants to put in a water system but also provide training to band members on how to maintain those systems. Derkaz said a Liberal government would continue to invest in infrastructure, education, health and water systems for communities. Delfing said he would be an advocate for private property ownership instead of “Ottawa controlled” reserve land. Sandhu said the NDP government is committed to lift all boil water advisories by 2021 and wants to fast-track a Northern infrastructure fund. Lastly, Reinarz said the Green Party would develop a national strategy for housing, clean water, food security and healthcare for Indigenous people.


@CameronJHT
Cameron.thomson@saobserver.net

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