In stark contrast to Federal leader debates, local candidates from Canada’s four major parties actually expressed a mutual like for each other at the all-candidates debate Friday in Keremeos.
To watch them one might almost think they were members of a political Partridge Familyesque rock band on tour, not four people going head-to-head in what will probably be the longest job interview of their lives.
Repeatedly during opening remarks and throughout the debate Liberal candidate Karley Scott, NDP Angelique Wood and Green Robert Mellalieu expressed that they respected their opponents and at times even made remarks leaning towards wanting to stay in touch and possibly form future committees to collaborate on ideas that could help everyone in the new riding.
Conservative candidate Dan Albas even laughed at one of Mellalieu’s punny jokes.
“I fix computers for a living or as you may know them PC’s,” Mellalieu said during his opening remarks.
Although the mood could be considered cordial in political debate circles, the candidates did face-off on some tough questions effecting residents in the Similkameen Valley.
As predicted the National Park issue was brought up but with a twist. The resident at the microphone framed the question in a pro-park way asking “What will you do to help us establish a National Park?”
Answers varied slightly for the candidates with most saying a version of more information needs to be collected by the province before anything moves forward and acknowledging there were sensitive lands and species at risk that need to be protected some way.
Conservative Dan Albas encouraged residents to make comments on the province’s new intentions paper for park lands prior to the Oct. 31 deadline
Representing his party well, Albas pointed out the unknown fiscal demand of the project.
“Obviously before anything goes further there needs to be an assessment to truly find out what the cost would be to taxpayers,” he said.
Scott, liberal candidate, acknowledged the park was a contentious issue and that the lands proposed for park areas were known to be part of a sensitive ecosystem.
She said at this point the federal government doesn’t appear to be part of the plan or in deep discussions regarding the proposal.
“This is a provincial plan,” she said.
Mellalieu used his lighthearted charm to first address the issue by saying the land provided a good place to go ATVing but that also Spotted Lake was pretty.
“To come to a decision cooperation is going to be needed from all of us,” he said
Wood reminded voters that the province was asking for feedback about the new boundaries and this was the time to give it.
She fell short of stating she was supportive of forming a National Park but did lean towards some kind of conservation.
“On the animals behalf, we need to come to the table and work this out to have the area protected in some way,” she said.
One speaker during the evening was booed into silence but it wasn’t a politician.
A resident from Hedley took an aggressive tone with Wood who also resides in Hedley during the first half of the debate. The man threw unproven accusations at the former RDOS director before being quickly shutdown by the audience.
“Cut him off. Why did you let him to speak to her like that,” one man said to the moderator of the event.
The moderator then told Wood she was not required to provide an answer to his question.
The man yelled at a member of the crowd before leaving the microphone where he stood at the back of room scowling at Wood until he left during the break.
A woman told the Review after the debate ended that she felt embarrassment that she lived in the same community as the man.
“What must people think of people from Hedley,” the woman said.
Another hot topic during the evening was whether or not the candidates supported abolishing the senate.
Albas, conservative, said if his party formed government the senate would not be abolished and pointed to the complexity of changing the constitution.
“It’s as much trouble to repair it as it is to get rid of it,” he said.
Wood said the NDP would abolish the senate.
Scott said the Liberals would make the Senate less partisan and make appointments of senators more merit-based.
Mellalieu said the Green Party would not abolish but reform it.
“We want to try and fix it. Make it proportional representation. Our plan is we’re going to elect senate,” he said.
A question from an audience member having difficulty obtaining a medical marijauana license elicited clear answers from three candidates.
Wood said the NDP would decriminalize marjiuana. The Liberal candidate and the green candidate both said they would legalize it.
Albas used his time to explain the Conservative change in medical marijuana regulations and that there are six conditions recognized by doctors when deciding if a patient qualifies to use medical marijuana.
“There has to be proper studies done to ensure it’s safe,” he said.
Candidates also fielded questions on the Syrian refugee crisis, the TPP trade deal, the CBC and other topics.
An all candidates debate is expected to take place prior to the election.