Ron Cannan had three adversaries to answer Thursday, at the Kelowna Chamber of Commerce monthly luncheon which was dedicated to the federal election.
In one of the first all-candidates meetings of the rather late-season electoral race, political hopefuls Tisha Kalmanovich (NDP), Kris Stewart (Liberals) and Alice Hooper (Greens) each tried to peg off the two-time incumbent.
Elected in 2006, Cannan largely argued for the status quo, emphasizing the plans of all three other parties would raise taxes and playing to his strength—his community service.
“I really pride myself on the fact I want to be open and accountable to you,” said Cannan, who served on city council for nine years before switching to federal politics.
Swinging into the debate with a tight left-hook, Kalmanovich proved the toughest adversary, telling the crowd of downtown lawyers and accountants she sees the Conservatives and their leaders as the IBM to Jack Layton’s Microsoft—the latter proving the better long-term investment.
“I am very unclear and somewhat disheartened at what Mr. Harper’s vision might be,” she said.
She told Cannan this week’s announcement the long-serving Kelowna Women’s Resource Centre would close its doors does not bode well for him if he plans to stick to claims he has supported women’s resources.
Stewart stuck strictly to her party’s message-track, hammering home the Liberal’s plan to reduce the deficit to one per cent of the Gross Domestic Product within two years with investment in digital technology, clean resources, health and biosciences.
Stewart also announced she would be pro-active by holding a nonpartisan health care forum over the weekend (Saturday, April 23 in the Rotary Centre for the Arts) to illicit public sentiment on the private-public debate.
Admitting she is not only the Green Party’s political candidate, but green for her lack of experience, realtor Alice Hooper said voting is about taking personal responsibility and urged her audience to go to the Green Party’s web site and read through the platform.
Many of the questions centred on fiscal policies, with one asking about a national housing strategy that might return to giving financial incentives for developers willing to build rental housing. Predictably, only the incumbent stepped back from the suggestion.
But when it came to the Alberta oil sands project, the gloves came off.
Stewart said she believes it’s time to end the $2 billion subsidy for big oil, while Hooper took it to a personal level saying even the people working in the oil sands are starting to wonder what they’re doing there.
Kalmanovich noted her father had been an engineer in the oil sands, and although she got married in Fort McMurray, she still realizes Canada is missing the boat on climate change.
Cannan retorted by explaining only 20 per cent of the extraction done uses steam-assisted gravity drainage, the highly controversial practice which uses vast amounts of fresh water resources to extract oil.