South Okanagan-West Kootenay candidates clarify positions during heated debate | iNFOnews | Thompson-Okanagan's News Source

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South Okanagan-West Kootenay candidates clarify positions during heated debate

All five candidates from the South Okanagan West Kootenay riding squared off at a forum in Penticton on Sept. 8.
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September 09, 2021 - 11:39 AM

There were some testy exchanges between South Okanagan-West Kootenay candidates and the moderators at a federal election all candidates forum last night.

The Penticton Herald Federal All Candidates Forum was held online last night, Sept. 8.

“(Conservative candidate) Helena Konanz, two years ago you may remember I asked you in an interview if you understand human is the primary driver of climate change. Your answer at the time was that you didn’t know because you’re not a scientist,” moderator Chris Walker from CBC radio asked.

“Well I’m still not a scientist. But I do believe we should follow science,” Konanz replied.

She spoke about how Canada emits a disproportionately high level of carbon, and goals need to be reached order to address climate change. However, economic challenges caused by COVID have left many Canadians in “crisis mode” for the past year and a half, and many oil and gas workers live in the riding.

“We have to move slow and steady towards those goals because we can’t leave people without food on their tables,” Konanz said.

Green Party candidate Tara Howse used a response card to jump in on the question.

“You’re using fear,” Howse said. “Fear of job loss, and it’s not fair when you’re talking about not being able to feed children.”

Howse said fossil fuels will run out eventually, and the billions of dollars currently spent on subsidizing Canada’s energy industry would be better spent on helping it transition into cleaner technologies.

Konanz responded by saying that people who live in rural communities need to drive.

“Unfortunately we’re never going to have a sky train that goes from (Howse’s home of Rossland), or from West Bench, where Mr. (NDP candidate Richard) Cannings lives,” Konanz said. “I’m guessing you both drove here. We need to drive.”

Konanz then criticized a comment Cannings made years ago about trying to bring back Greyhound.

“I’d like to see how those negotiations are going," she said.

Despite all of the dialogue, moderator Walker was not satisfied with the response.

“Ms. Konanz, with respect I’m not sure you answered the question. I’m interested, to be blunt, if you believe, understand that human activity is the primary driver of climate change, and I didn’t hear whether you said yes or no.”

“I’m sure it is, yes,” Konanz replied.

The other moderator at the forum, Joe Fries from the Penticton Herald, asked Konanz if she supports the decriminalization of hard drugs.

They may as well already be legal, she said.

“If anyone has those drugs the police are basically not arresting them,” Konanz said, adding there needs to be tougher punishments for dealers, and said she supports Pathways Addiction Resource Centre in Penticton.

When Fries asked Konanz to clearly state whether or not she supports decriminalizing hard drugs, the Conservative candidate said yes.

During opening statements, Howse said the reason she’s running is because of her disappointment with incumbent MP Richard Cannings. When the SNC Lavalin scandal broke, she spoke with him, and felt like he was dismissive of her by saying the controversy will be dealt with as an election issue.

READ MORE: Federal Election 2021: Conservatives seem unassailable in Central Okanagan-Similkameen-Nicola

“Way to take it to Richard there, Tara,” Peoples’ Party candidate Sean Taylor said. “As far as I can tell all he did was ride his bike, and post some videos, and label people as white supremacist groups.”

Taylor also used his opening statement to “recognize that we’re on the unceded territory of Canada” and accuse the sitting government of “deploying medical apartheid.”

Taylor was later questioned about a section of his party’s platform that would restrict the definition of hate speech.

“Is your party saying that hate speech is OK as long as it doesn’t contain a threat of violence? How else is should someone read that?” moderator Fries asked.

“Yeah I think that’s a good way to read that,” Taylor said. “Everyone’s labelling everything hate speech. If you hate the speech, it becomes hate speech.”

Fries asked if Taylor can see the problem with hate speech.

“Well who defines hate speech?” Taylor said, adding laws are already in place to protect the public from threats. He doesn’t want speech to be curtailed with more laws.

In another question, moderator Walker reminded Taylor that he referred to public health measures as apartheid, and also compared Justin Trudeau to Hitler on his Twitter feed.

“Apartheid was a murderous and racist regime that ruled South Africa for 40 years, death squads assassinations and torture,” Walker said. “I’m curious as to why you think these comparisons are appropriate.”

Taylor sees apartheid is a two-tiered society, and said that is what Canada will be with vaccine passports.

“If you got a better word for it I’d be open to hear it,” he said.

Taylor defended the Hitler tweet as a joke. A few minutes later, he brought the tweet up on his phone to clarify that it was tongue-in-cheek.

“I was just going though my twitter feed and I know accuracy isn’t a big deal for you guys at the CBC…” Taylor said.

READ MORE: Election 2021: South Okanagan-West Kootenay riding is anyone's call

In a question for the field, candidates were asked about the over 5,000 unmarked graves that found have been discovered on former residential school sites, and what role the federal government should play in the investigation and repatriating the victims.

“Yeah, I dunno, pass,” Taylor said.

Liberal candidate Ken Robertson, who grew up Kamloops, said his grandmother attended the Kamloops Indian Residential School.

“This is really hitting home for me," he said.

Robertson applauded the work being done by the Liberal government on the issue, and said it’s important for the investigation to determine a clear number and properly identify the remains.

Cannings was asked about a campaign photo he posted to social media, where he’s standing with a family and posted a generic caption about NDP values. But moderator Fries said the people in that photo were his campaign manager’s family.

“This photo sort of holds them out as this average family you met while door knocking but it doesn’t seem like an average family,” Fries said. “Why weren’t you clear about that?”

“Yes that was a picture of one of the people working on my campaign,” Cannings said. “I fully admit it, what can I say, but it’s a standard practice in campaigning.”

Voters go to the polls on Sept. 20.

To contact a reporter for this story, email Dan Walton or call 250-488-3065 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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