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All candidates debate in Vernon was lacking one key element

Just over 400 people attended the event.
October 09, 2019 - 11:42 AM

VERNON - For an all-candidates debate just two weeks shy of a general election, the North Okanagan-Shuswap all candidates forum lacked one key aspect — a debate.

While the five federal candidates sat lined up on stage at the Vernon and District Performing Arts Centre, Oct. 8, and answered a variety of questions from pipelines to proportional representation, none of their answers simulated any debate between them.

The candidates were given a green card to wave to indicate they wanted a rebuttal, although none of them took the option.

Each candidate seemed to have their supporters and drew polite applause but none more than another. When it came to standing ovations, bums were firmly in their seats.


Green Party candidate Marc Reinarz sits as NDP candidate Harwinder Sandhu speaks to the audience.
Green Party candidate Marc Reinarz sits as NDP candidate Harwinder Sandhu speaks to the audience.

While the candidates kept their answers well scripted and in line with the rhetoric of their party's leaders, some answers seemed less rehearsed than others.

When asked about whether their party would introduce proportional representation, Liberal candidate Cindy Derkaz didn't skirt around the issue and said how as a candidate in 2015 she had promised that the Liberals would introduce proportional representation and defended her party's reasons for not doing so.

People's Party of Canada candidate Kyle Delfing said as his party was all about small government he supported the first-past-the-post system, adding, "I'm polling three per cent right now (and) I don't support proportional representation."

The forum, moderated by CBC's Chris Walker, gave each candidate one minute to answer a question.

When asked what "in precise terms" would their parties do to guarantee pipelines are built, each candidate had a definitive answer.

Conservative incumbent Mel Arnold
Conservative incumbent Mel Arnold

Conservative incumbent Mel Arnold talked about his party's national energy corridor, and Derkaz said her party had purchased the Trans Mountain Pipeline and were determined to develop it.

Delfing referenced sections of the constitution that stated the federal government could override the provinces in matters of national interest, telling the audience how the People's Party would use this to get pipelines built.

"We are saying no to pipelines," NDP candidate Harwinder Sandhu said. "But when we say no that doesn't mean we are going to shut down all the oil sector, we're talking about a sustainable economy."

The question was a moot point for Green Party candidate Marc Reinarz. "You cannot be a climate leader if you build pipelines, you can not declare a climate change emergency on Monday and buy a pipeline on Tuesday," he said.

All the candidates seemed to be in agreement when it came to free trade across Canada and removing trade barriers.

People's Party of Canada candidate Kyle Delfing.
People's Party of Canada candidate Kyle Delfing.

A question put forward by the B.C Fruit Growers Association about farming strategy led to the evenings only heckle. A member of the audience called out "you've had four years to do it" after the Liberal candidate answered the question.

This type of forum can open up the possibility of a candidate dropping themselves in hot water, but this debate was not one of them.

The only faux pas of the evening came from Arnold who mistakenly said "the current Conservative government" when criticizing the Liberal's tax system. He later realized his mistake and corrected himself with a smile.

If the 400 or so audience members expected the passionate pleas and heckles often heard in local town hall meetings or the raucous behaviour seen in the House of Commons, their expectations would not have been fulfilled.

Liberal candidate Cindy Derkaz
Liberal candidate Cindy Derkaz

To contact a reporter for this story, email Ben Bulmer or call (250) 309-5230 or email the editor. You can also submit photos, videos or news tips to the newsroom and be entered to win a monthly prize draw.

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