Creating an affordable and prosperous Canada through sustainable job creation, an educated workforce with minimal or zero student debt, and willing to tackle the climate crisis were top of mind among the audience at an Okanagan College all-candidates forum on Tuesday.
Climate change action was particularly a prominent topic of discussion with many North Okanagan-Shuswap candidates touching on the need for policy, open dialogue, education and collaboration before the forum crowd of about 50 people.
The idea of forming a coalition government, however, was a bit more challenging for the candidates to find common ground at the forum, hosted by the Vernon Students’ Association.
The idea of a coalition government has trickled down from federal party leaders as the neck-and-neck race between the Liberals and Conservatives gets tighter, further fueled by NDP leader Jagmeet Singh’s statement of how he would “absolutely” work with the other parties on a coalition government.
“We’re not going to support a Conservative government,” Singh added.
“We’re going to fight a Conservative government, we’re going to fight it all the way. We’re ready to do whatever it takes.”
Conservative candidate Mel Arnold said forming a coalition government before knowing the outcome is “not correct,” but noting the Conservatives have made achievements in a minority government before.
“A solid or a rigid coalition may not be the best way to move forward because of the commitments one party made to its membership would overflow into the commitments another party made to its membership,” said Arnold, the MP incumbent.
“But finding the best way to move forward, with the consensus from the other parties, is the best way to go.”
People’s Party of Canada candidate Kyle Delfing acknowledged forming a co-operative government is sometimes necessary, but he called candidates speaking about intentions of forming a coalition government before votes have been cast as disrespectful.
“I wouldn’t say who we’d have a coalition with, if we would have a coalition, until the 22nd, just out of respect to the voters who want to vote for our party and see a majority mandate,” he said.
“We should wait and see what the voters determine on October 21,” Liberal candidate Cindy Derkaz added.
“They’re the ones that will determine what will happen on October 22.”
Green Party candidate Marc Reinarz leaned on his international upbringing and experience with coalition governments in Europe, saying proportional representation is the best way to ensure all voters’ interests are being spoken for.
“First across the post is looked abroad as a joke,” Reinarz said.
“A coalition is a healthy result of a healthy government…
“It’s democracy à la carte.”
NDP candidate Harwinder Sandhu said all parties are looking to better the lives of Canadians, saying she has no issue collaborating with other political parties to achieve that goal.
“It was a Liberal and NDP minority government when we got universal health care,” she said.
“As Tommy Douglas said to Liberal PM at the time, ‘Give me the universal health care and I’ll keep you in power’…
“We have never achieved similar accomplishments with a majority government.”