From left: David Wilks

From left: David Wilks

Candidates take debate to Cranbrook

Candidates for federal election in the Kootenay-Columbia riding sat down to take questions at the JCI All Candidates Forum Tuesday.

Arne Petryshen

On Tuesday night, the four candidates for the federal election in the Kootenay-Columbia riding sat down to take questions from one another as well as this submitted by the audience at the JCI All Candidates Forum.

Conservative candidate David Wilks, Liberal candidate Don Johnston, Green Party candidate Bill Green and NDP candidate Wayne Stetski answered questions on the economy, environment, Canada’s role overseas and whether they are a dog or cat person.

The answer to the last question is they are all — every single one of them — dog persons. So if you were hoping to vote for the candidate who favours feline companionship, you’re out of luck.

The event was at the Key City Theatre.

As for the more serious three-quarters of the debate, Wayne Stetski came out swinging against David Wilks, saying he wants to be the region’s strong voice in Ottawa. Stetski noted that in 2012 Wilks made national headlines for saying that one member of parliament will not make a difference in Ottawa.

“I disagree with Mr. Wilks and I will make the difference for you in Ottawa,” he said.

Much later in the forum, when asked about voting on conscience and supporting constituents over party whip, Wilks fired back at Stetski.

Wilks said as a member of parliament, in a pretty with party status, when there is a confidence motion on a budget there is no choice.

“You will vote with the party, and if you don’t you will be an independent the next day,” Wilks said. He gave the example of two NDP MPs that voted against the gun registry. “The very next day, they were removed from all of their committees, they lost all their library privileges, they lost all their privileges within the house of commons. And who put those in? Tom Mulcair. That’s the punishment for doing that.”

Wilks did note that there are many other votes that come forward. Wilks noted that within the Conservative party he was the MP who voted most against his own party or with other parties in the past four and a half years.

Stetski replied that his job if elected is to represent the constituents of this riding in Ottawa. He noted he had concerns about that and so met with Alex Atamanenko MP for British Columbia Southern Interior. Stetski said Atamanenko told him there were two occasions when he had to sit down with the leader to say he couldn’t vote with the party.

“They had discussions and in the end they reached a compromise that allowed him to support the party,” Stetski said.

“If there are consequences there are consequences, but my job is to be your strong voice in Ottawa and that’s why I’m doing this.”

Bill Green added that voted for the constituents is important, but there also needs to be a consensus.

“There’s a huge diversity of views in this room and indeed across this riding, so how do we know when we’re voting for the wishes of this riding?” asked Green. “We have to work at that. We have to work with internet tools, with town meetings, etcetera to find out if there is a consensus.”

Don Johnston said he agreed with Wilks that there are times you have to vote with the party on the budget, platform promises and anything that convenes the Charter of Rights and Freedoms.

“The problem with the current situation is that when you put a budget together with a bunch of omnibus bills, but whip the vote because it’s a budget bill, that’s where it all falls apart,” Johnston said. “That’s where people are put in a position where they sometimes have to support something that personally, deep in their own heart, they would not do, but it’s a budget bill, so the price that you pay can be pretty heavy.”

Johnston said the Liberals will put in administrative regulations that will limit the use of omnibus bills.

Among other questions that were asked of the candidates was their stances on a national pharmacare plan, food security, balancing the environment and the economy, and Canada’s role in overseas missions.

When asked what they thought the biggest issue facing the Kootenay-Columbia riding was the candidates had answers along the same wavelength.

For Bill Green it was issue of poverty, especially that of children and seniors. He said the Green party would bring in a liveable wage.

Don Johnston agreed on poverty being the biggest issue. He said the Liberal’s planned child benefit will go to those who need it most. EH said a large social infrastructure program will include affordable housing, affordable mental accommodation, senior facilities and childcare facilities.

David Wilks said it is that seniors housing is lacking and so many seniors are forced to move to unfamiliar towns and have trouble adapting and can become lonely. Wilks noted the Lilac Terrace development for seniors in Sparwood as an example of something that has helped to remedy the issue.

Wayne Stetski said it is a difficult question because there are so many social issues to deal with in Canada. Stetski said it was hard to believe there are 500 homeless people in a city like Cranbrook. Stetski said the best thing the government could do was provide more housing.