More than 200 people got a couple of hours on Oct. 1 to get to know their federal election candidates —Bill Green (Green), Don Johnston (LIberal), Wayne Stetski (New Democrat), David Wilks (Conservative) — at a forum sponsored by Creston Valley Chamber of Commerce.
Q: What would you do to encourage family farms?
Johnston: The aging of current farmers is an important issue and a Liberal government would find ways to assist young farmers with capital and debt costs. Farmers need “a safety net” because with climate change agriculture is increasingly risky.
Stetski: “We need to make farming economically viable.” Provincial and federal governments have deserted farmers in the last 10 years. More is needed in the way of research and testing support.
Green: While “some consolidation” can be positive for family farms, the real problem is ownership by corporations. Policies and supports specific to family farms are needed, as is increased support of farmers’ markets.
Wilks: Three funding programs are in place to support agriculture. An education program to teach about the cost of farming is needed because new young farmers can need as much as a $5-6 million investment in land and equipment to get started.
Q: Will you implement the recommendations of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission?
Stetski: The findings of the commission are “very broad” and “we will implement them.” The process starts by recognizing that what we have done is “cultural genocide”. The report “goes along way in telling us how to get there” as far as addressing issues goes.
Green: “It should be a defining issue in this election.” He cited Yaqan Nukiy School, which also has non-First Nation students, as “a start to reconciliation.” Governments need to stop activities, like the proposed Jumbo development, that affect other cultures.
Wilks: “It is important to move forward with First Nations issues so they have their independence.” Creation of First Nations health authorities and focusing on health, culture and language is key. The First Nations Transparency Act has made leaders more accountable for the way money is spent and the Conservatives have committed $2.3 billion for reserve housing.
Johnston: The Liberals will create an inquiry into the missing and murdered indigenous women issue. “We need to build a new reality”, he said, describing the Indian Act as a colonial piece of legislation that “is well past its best-before date.” We must create one Canada for everybody.
Q: What effect would the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TTP) trade agreement have on the local dairy industry?
Green: Fair trade should put sovereignty and human rights first. The Green Party is deeply opposed to the TTP, which “was negotiated in the worst possible circumstances by a government that desperately wants this.” The agreement supports corporations at the expense of individuals and nations. “I am proud of our supply management systems. There should be less emphasis on trade and more local focus because of the carbon footprint trade creates.”
Wilks: “I don’t know more than anyone else” about the TPP. Supply management is a cornerstone in Canadian agricultural policy and the Conservatives are committed to retain it.
Johnston: “It scares the heck out of me.” He is suspicious that the timing of the negotiations was set to benefit the Conservative Party in the election campaign and that “trade deals haven’t prevented trade deficits.”
Stetski: If the Conservatives support Canadian supply management systems, “How do you sell a wheat board to Saudi Arabia?” The NDP has a national food strategy. He said that “it is totally unethical to negotiate a trade deal three weeks before an election when you are no longer going to be the prime minister.” Supply management is important to our economy, and in the TPP, corporations will win and farmers and people in our communities will lose.
Q: Do you favour a proportional representation electoral system?
Wilks: Three provincial referendums on proportional representation have failed. “The present system is a good one and we will stick with it.”
Johnston: Canadians feel that their votes don’t count and a Liberal government would introduce a proportional representation system within 18 months of its formation.
Stetski: Proportional representation is part of the NDP platform to restore democracy in Canada and it will be in place for the 2019 federal election.
Green: “Fixing our democracy is a passion of mine.” Referendums on proportional representation failed because the governments of the day did not support them. An all-party committee would travel the country to hear from Canadians before creating a proportional representation system.
Q: What will you do about neonicotinoids, which contribute to bee colony collapses?
Johnston: “We really need to bring science back to the table.” A moratorium should be put in place on the use of chemicals before we understand the impacts of their use.
Stetski: “I’m so old I read Silent Spring by Rachel Carson.” Science needs to be the determining factor in the use of chemicals in agriculture. Clear food labeling should be required.
Green: Biodiversity should be considered. When there is a risk of harm, decisions “should err on the side of the ecosystem and human health.” The Green Party would reinvest in science across the country, adding $75 million to restore our ability to assess the impacts of chemicals and other issues.
Wilks: Science is being used to address the problems through Health Canada, which is encouraging dust reduction when planting treated seeds.