It’s never too early to get interested in politics.
This sentiment was proved by the 563 students from Grades 4 to 8 who attended the federal all-candidates meeting at the Shuswap Middle School gymnasium on Thursday, Oct. 17.
Nearly all North Okanagan-Shuswap candidates were in attendance: Mel Arnold representing the Conservatives, Cindy Derkaz for the Liberals, Harwinder Sandhu the NDP, and Kyle Delfing for the People’s Party of Canada. Green party candidate Marc Reinarz was not present.
After a few words from the event’s organizer Geoff Styles, a teacher at the South Canoe Outdoor School, the meeting was taken over by moderator and Salmon Arm Mayor Alan Harrison. Channeling his years of experience as a school principal, Harrison brought the crowd under control and the meeting commenced.
Candidates were given four minutes to introduce themselves, two minutes to introduce their party’s platforms and one minute each to answer three questions posed to them by students.
The first two questions were standard election queries, asking each party’s position on immigration and what will be done to protect natural resources.
The third question came from Grade 4 student Dane Johnson who asked, “how would your government treat the possible future challenge of climate refugees coming to Canada, including the possibility of border control?”
Arnold was the first to answer by referencing the Conservative Party’s goal to reduce emissions in higher polluting countries like China and India. He explained this practice would reduce the effects of climate change and lessen the number of climate refugees.
Cindy Derkaz responded by advocating for investments in foreign aid which would go to help mitigate the effects of climate change in other countries, therefore reducing the number of climate refugees.
“If we can help people right where they live, that is going to reduce the possibilities that they are fleeing environmental crisis,” Derkaz said.
Harwinder Sandhu was the next to respond.
“This is Canada, we are a world champion when it comes to human rights and we should help. At the end there is only one race, the human race,” she said.
Lastly, Kyle Delfing answered the question by first denying the possibility of climate refugees.
“We need to mitigate climate where people live, we don’t need to have climate refugees, it’s a falsity,” Delfing said. “We are going to control our borders by creating a virtual point of entry between the real ports of entry which will prevent anybody who crosses our border illegally from staying in Canada.”