Debating the federal election debates

NDP candidate Stetski throws down debate challenge to other candidates; Bill Green, Don Johnston accept, MP Wilks doesn’t respond

  • Jul. 13, 2015 11:00 a.m.

CAROLYN GRANT

A challenge has been issued by federal NDP candidate for the Kootenay Columbia riding, Wayne Stetski, to MP David Wilks on the number of debates he will attend, but so far Wilks is not responding.

Stetski proposes eight debates in eight communities, Cranbrook and Kimberley included.

“An election is a job interview,” Stetski said. “The current MP has a habit of not showing up, and that’s not good enough for the people of Kootenay Columbia.”

Stetski says Wilks’ record of attendance in the last federal campaign was 43 per cent.

“I intend to be there, debating the current MP at every opportunity,” said Stetski. “We are all asking the people of this area to choose us to be their representative. This is a job interview, so we all have to show up.”

Stetski is suggesting the formation of a debate committee, composed of a representative of every candidate, to work directly with debate organizers to set a debate calendar that works for everyone, and provides debates in all eight major communities in the riding.

“David Wilks must commit to be at an all-issues debate in every major community,” said Stetski. “That means we organize events in Revelstoke, Golden, Invermere, Kimberley, Cranbrook, Fernie, Creston, and Nelson, and we cement it into our calendars. Claiming that you have another event booked cannot be an excuse for not showing up.”

Stetski’s campaign team sent an official request to David Wilks, Bill Green, and Don Johnston to ask them to provide a representative to negotiate dates for all eight candidate debates.

“If this offer is refused one will have to wonder whether or not Mr. Wilks is really willing to take questions from his constituents in a public forum. Is he really willing to debate his opponents? Or does he think that once again he can just rely on the record of the previous Conservative MP to win this election?”

The Daily Bulletin contacted Wilks’s office last week and asked for a comment but so far has not received a response.

The other candidates, however, are eager to get organized.

Bill Green of Kimberley, running for the Green Party says he would be willing to do 11 debates, adding Salmo, Kaslo and the east shore of Kootenay Lake (Gray Creek or Crawford Bay) to the schedule.

“We have a very large riding with many smaller communities and we need to work to make sure that very few voters need to travel more than 30 minutes to get  to a debate” said Green.

“In 2011, I participated in six of the seven all candidates public forums and only unfortunately missed one in Invermere. I greatly enjoyed the debates and believe they provide the best way for voters to learn about their candidates and the candidates’ perspective and priorities. Recent polling shows strong and growing support for the Green Party in British Columbia. I  look forward to further building that support in this riding in the lead up to and during the campaign period.”

“We welcome the request by the NDP candidate to coordinate debates,” said Brian May, Liberal Communications for Kootenay Columbia. “Don Johnston  knows very well through his work as former CEO of Columbia Basin Trust that the Kootenay Columbia is a very large riding and that every community has it’s unique perspectives and concerns. We hope that every voter will be close enough to a debate venue to hear the positions and records of the candidates.

“Don has already met with voters and leaders in each one of the communities and had already begun discussions on what the debate traditions were in each community. We hope a time table can be arranged that will accommodate the Conservative candidates schedule since we look forward to asking both him and Mr. Stetski about their record of service to voters in the area. Don’s Community Team Leader Jan Wright will join the coordination committee.”

During the last election campaign, there were debates in Revelstoke, Golden, Invermere, Kimberley, Fernie, Creston and Cranbrook. Mr. Wilks did not attend the debates in Kimberley, Cranbrook, Invermere and Revelstoke. At that time, Nelson was not part of the Kootenay Columbia riding.