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: Would you protect resources by preventing bulk or bottled water sales?
Wilks: “Water is one thing we have to protect.” The Columbia River Treaty is important to Kootenay-Columbia and that federal and provincial governments need to co-operate to protect the resource.
Johnston: Water is a central part of who we are. With climate change some water systems are already running out. Water exports are “frightening.” If we aren’t careful in negotiating trade deals, we could lose control.
Stetski: Canada doesn’t have a water strategy and it should. Water is a basic human right and exports should be excluded from trade deals. Infrastructure needs to be improved and polluters should be made to pay.
Green: “Keep it. Preserve it. Protect it.” The Charter of Rights and Freedoms should be amended to include drinkable water and laws should prohibit the export of bulk water. First Nations need healthy water in their communities. Provision of healthy water should be a cornerstone of foreign aid.
Q: What would you do to support a skilled workforce in rural communities?
Green: A strong post-secondary education is needed. Currently there are “immense financial barriers” to young people, and they should be eliminated. Free post-secondary education and skills training programs should be available to all.
Wilks: Apprenticeships should start in Grade 10 when students are still living at home.
Johnston: A Liberal government will invest $500 for training and retraining in new skills. An educated workforce is important to the economy and creating a green economy benefits rural communities.
Stetski: An affordable post-secondary education is important, as are available jobs for graduates. Policies like a reduced small business tax, $15-a-day child care and affordable housing will make it easier to create local jobs and fill the positions.
Q: Would you reinstate the practice of the federal government borrowing only from the Bank of Canada?
Stetski: Yes. I don’t know how we moved away from the practice.
Green: Canadian regulations have resulted in a strong banking industry.
Wilks: “We have a strong banking system that is the envy of the world.” Our structures are very sound.
Johnston: We support the existing regulatory systems that helped us get through the recession as well as we did.
Q: What will you do about the rising price of pharmaceutical drugs?
Johnston: The federal government needs to talk to provincial governments about the need for bulk buying across the country. The Health Accord was allowed to expire and it needs to be renegotiated. “Personally, I like Pharmacare. It is the cheapest solution in the long run.”
Stetski: Pharmacare would be part of a health care plan and bulk purchases would reduce costs. A new Health Accord is needed, but “Harper hasn’t met with all the premiers even once in the last 10 years.”
Green: “Since when are drugs not part of health care?” A Pharmacare system will save $11 billion in the Canadian economy. “Seniors should not have to choose between healthy food and prescription drugs.”
Wilks: The Conservative government is committed to move forward an agreement with provinces to create a bulk purchase system and health care transfers to provinces will continue to increase in the coming years. “Money will not solve the issue.”
Wilks: Grants and funds from federal programs are needed to support regional districts and municipalities. Affordable housing for seniors is “a passion of mine.” Caring for veterans and creation of more spaces for addiction recovery and after care are top priorities.
Green: Goal is to eliminate poverty and building a green economy for the future. “Citizens need to benefit from what we do, not corporations.” Structural budget deficits are not acceptable because they create burdens on future taxpayers. The Green Party is needed to hold others accountable. “Ignore the polls. Don’t vote out of fear.”
Stetski: “Stephen Harper has to go.” People are ready for change. He was a public servant and knows how to serve the public. He is tied with Wilks, according to the most recent polls. It is time to restore the Canada “that you want.”
Johnston: “We do not believe in an austerity government.” Liberal financial plans have been created based on the Conservative budget estimates. There is a need to address our infrastructure deficit in a way that is long term and sustainable. “We need to create a future of hope and change.”