Just under 50 people turned out on Wednesday, Apr. 20, at the Barriere Ridge, to hear what the five candidates for the Kamloops-Thompson-Cariboo riding had to say.
Moderator Harley Wright opened the forum, sponsored by the North Thompson Star/Journal, then each of the candidates gave a three minute introduction.
Incumbent Cathy McLeod, who is also on the government finance committee, said the Economic Action Plan has proved itself, and that she was privileged to help with federal funding for 121 projects within the riding. McLeod also noted that she presented a number of submissions from throughout the riding to be included in the 2011 Budget, and was very pleased to see that 10 of these suggestions had been accepted. I was also very pleased that Barriere’s Greg Smith spoke to Finance Minister Flaherty about the work share program at great length, and as a result the program is now more flexible and for 16 weeks.
Green Party Donovan Cavers says he is a firm believer in practicing what you preach, and that the Greens are not into mud slinging, nor do they believe in attack ads. “We are a solution based party that looks forward,” said Cavers, noting the party is focusing on more value added forestry and tourism.
NDP Michael Crawford was also a candidate in the 2008 election. He came out verbally swinging at the Harper government saying, “If you don’t want elections, recognize you have a minority government; Harper won’t do that, he behaves as if he has a majority budget.” Crawford also said the NDP focus is to stop privatization, focus on the environment, focus on jobs, and stop giving money to big corporations and start giving it to small businesses.
Christian Heritage Candidate Chris Kempling said the election allows everyone to focus on what is really important – that everyone in Canada is currently in debt for $17,000, and his party would like to eliminate the National Debt. “We’d like the government to be a lot smaller than it is now,” said Kempling, “We are opposed to income tax and think it is possible to run a government on an 18 to 20 per cent sales tax. We believe there should be a national goal for food protection, and we don’t want to be share croppers on our own land.” He noted the party would like to know how much land in Canada is owned by people who do not reside here?
Liberal candidate Murray Todd said his party’s platform puts emphasis on families, learning, care giving, the economy, and the green living tax credit, as well as partnering with First Nations, sustainable farm income, and economic diversification.
The moderator then opened the forum up to questions from the floor.
McLeod was asked “Why so much funding has been cut from women’s programs?” To which she answer, “Funding has absolutely not been cut for women’s programs. We looked at these programs, and really refocused, actually increasing funding. We also recognize that parents want choices [day care], and we plan to put money back into the pockets of parents so they can decide who will provide day care for their children, be it granny, a friend, or licensed child care.”
Kempling said the Christian Heritage plan is to provide parents with $1,000 per month so that one parent can stay at home and care for the children until age 18.
Crawford said, “Women’s centres across the country were cut; they relocated the money across the country to other women’s programs. The universal child care benefit of $100 per month doesn’t keep a child in diapers.”
An audience member emotionally stated she had primary aggressive MS, and wanted to know how she can get funding, as she has had no response from the B.C. government?” It was noted this was under provincial jurisdiction not federal.
Todd stated he knew there were deficiencies in the system and would commit to talk to the health minister. Kempling said his Party would implement a $1,000 per month for any caregiver who had to leave the job and care for a family member.
Crawford said the Liberal Party wanted the government to fund experimental procedures, and noted that tax credits do exist to help change the home of a person with personal challenges.
Cavers said more funding needs to go into the health care system, and that his party focuses on prevention to make society healthier, thereby freeing up funding for unpreventable diseases.
McLeod said her background is in nursing and more research is needed. “We need to learn how to prevent them, and treat them,” said McLeod, noting that the 2011 budget has addressed support for caregivers.
McLeod was asked “If the rumour regarding closing of the Barriere and McLure post offices was true?” She replied that the government’s rural service review commitment is to not delete services for rural communities.
All candidates were asked to answer the question, “The Canada Health Act was up for discussion on the radio the other day, and about people wanting to suspend this act, what is everyone’s opinion?”
Todd said, “The Liberal Party stands 100 per cent behind the Canada Health Act.”
Kempling noted that something needed to be done due to the aging population putting a great strain on the Health Act, and that elective surgery should not be funded, or abortions. He also noted concerns about maintaining the Canadian population without relying on immigration. “We need to maintain our population by not funding procedures that gets rid of our population.”
Cavers shot back, “We are a pro choice party, and believe ready action to abortions is a woman’s right across Canada.” He also noted “Our focus is on prevention and keeping healthy.”
McLeod said, “The Conservative party is committed to the Canada Health Act. We have given special monies to help the provinces get rid of wait lists. I know we can get better jobs done if we get the right people doing the right jobs, and we need to decide what should be in the Canada Health Act.”
Another question from the audience asked, “Are there any plans to reform our justice system and speed up our trials?”
McLeod answered, “We believe our justice system is seriously out of balance. We do believe we have many horrendous examples that show the system is not looking at the rights of victims.” She noted that changes are needed, but that it is hard to pass these with a minority government.
Cavers said his party focuses on the root causes of crime – addictions and mental illness. “We want to look at why, rather than just lock them up,” said Cavers, “And we also want to legalize marijuana.”
Crawford’s response to the justice system question was an off the subject tirade against the Conservative government, to which McLeod responded by saying, “Michael, the truth please”.
Another question from the audience asked was how to get out of the recession and still be able to grow and move forward?
Cavers said a moratorium needed to be placed on the tar sands.
McLeod said the Conservatives’s economic action plan2 “is our road map into economic recovery”.
Crawford said, “We want to support small corporations… lower their corporate tax rate and provide payroll incentives.”
Kempling said, “We want to change the system entirely and eliminate personal taxes. We believe the linking of climate change to human activity is alarmist.”
Todd said, “The Liberal government will cancel corporate tax cuts, get rid of jets, get rid of the jails, and bring hi speed internet across Canada.”
Closing statements were given including:
Todd said he saw himself as an activist for the people to look into economic diversity, sustainable farm incomes, and partnerships with aboriginal communities.
Kempling said “Life issues are really important to me.”
Crawford said, “My priorities are for families rather than fighter jets. Can we take that 30 billion and put it into education? We need affordable housing and a national housing strategy… Seniors rather than jobs… We want to train 1200 doctors and 6,000 nurses right away.”
Cavers said, “We believe in constructive solutions, sustainable economy, social programs, the environment, Health Keep and child care. Act like you care about the environment, not just talk about it. Practice what you preach… Vote with your heart.”
McLeod said, “I see my roll as connecting you with your leaders, and being your conduit to connect with Ottawa to help move obstacles out of the way for you. We plan to balance the budget one year earlier than first announced by reducing waste; to scrap the long gun registry, to protect our children and the elderly, and we will stand on guard for Canada by reducing human smuggling and purchasing the equipment required by our men and women in the military.”
The candidates then took the final 30 minutes of the meeting to mingle with the public.