Kelowna-Lake Country candidates answered questions at the all-candidates forum held Friday morning at The Manteo Resort

Election 2015: Kelowna-Lake Country candidates debate issues

Public forum hosted by Kelowna Chamber of Commerce.

There were no clear winners or losers. No verbal body blows or gotcha moments.

The three candidates seeking to win the Kelowna-Lake Country riding for their parties in the Oct. 19 federal election had a chance to talk about party platforms and interject some of their own personal views on a variety of issues at the all-candidates forum put on by the Kelowna Chamber of Commerce at the Manteo Resort on Friday morning.

Ron Cannan, the Conservative incumbent MP, wore a Kelowna Rockets jersey to signify tonight’s home opener for the WHL team in its 25th anniversary year to bring a little levity to the occasion. He was joined on the stage by Liberal candidate Stephen Fuhr and the NDP’s Norah Bowman, along with forum moderators 1150 morning show hosts Phil Johnston and Gord Vizzutti, as the forum was broadcast live from 8 to 9:30 a.m.

Questions were asked of the candidates and each was given two minutes to respond. Below is a sampling of some of the questions and the candidates’ responses:

* How to help more Canadians afford to buy a home?

Cannan: Conservatives expanded RRSP withdrawal for first-time buyers from $25,000 to $35,000 and increased child tax credit to $5,000. Also cited analysis will be done to better understand the speculative impact of foreign buyers on local housing markets/

Fuhr: Liberals want to generally put more money into the pockets of the $44,000 to $89,000 income group and increase child tax credit to help towards buying a house.

Bowman: Related affordable housing shortfall to need to create skilled jobs in manufacturing sector while cutting business taxes. “Canadians should be able to buy and keep a house regardless of what’s happening in the international economy,” she said.


How to address shortage of doctors?

Bowman: Five million Canadians can’t find a family doctor, which places burden on the economy as more people are left to go to a hospital emergency ward for care or treatment. She said NDP committed to spend $300 million to set up 200 community care clinics across Canada, which can also be staffed by nurse practitioners in more rural regions. “That is a cheaper way to offer health care than dealing with people in emergency wards,” she said.

Cannan: Noted that his wife and daughter work in medical offices, so he has first-hand knowledge of concerns about access to doctors. Also cited that province is directly responsible for health care bolstered by federal revenue transfer payments. “Health care is not a single government issue,” he said. Suggested looking to new immigrant doctors as potential source for help.

Fuhr: He said Liberal Party has not yet released official policy platform stance on this issue, but it will be forthcoming. Suggested government might want to refocus more attention to training doctors to work in Canada rather than to provide their services abroad.


How to reduce the cost of pharmaceutical prescriptions?

Cannan: Acknowledged that prescription prices are reaching historic highs—”We can spend our way to insanity” — but answer may be in using the combined purchasing power of the provinces to help lower drug buying costs.

Fuhr: Said Liberals had $42 billion Pharmacare policy on the table for adoption to address rise drug costs that was shot down by the Conservatives after Prime Minister Stephen Harper took office.

Bowman: Bulk drug buying option should be enacted immediately. “We had 10 years to do this and hasn’t been done yet. We don’t need to study it any further. We will do it and we will do it right away,” she said.


Voter turnout discouraged by limitations placed on Elections Canada to get people out to vote?

Cannan: Elections Canada very aggressive on social media to put out information about voting to the public. “I support all ways to get people out and vote and be educated about who they vote for,” he said.

Fuhr: Current policies of Elections Canada leave the poor, homeless, students and marginalized having a more difficult time voting. “Those voters are not part of the Conservative base, so not a concern to our government,” he said.

Bowman: Cited no apparent need to impose limitations on what Elections Canada can do to promote people voting, saying there is little or no history of election fraud having occurred in Canada. “This is just a distraction technique as the real concern should be things like Robocall and fraudulent acts by political parties,” she said. She said making the rules to vote more complicated to Conservatives is all about keeping people who likely won’t vote for their party away from the polls.


What will you do specifically for Kelowna-Lake Country riding?

Bowman: NDP would reinstate $30 million in funding for Destination Canada, which had been canceled by Conservatives, as that organization’s role is to promote U.S. tourists to come here. “Tourism represents long-term business growth for our region,” she said. Also work to protect local agriculture interests in international free trade deals, impact of one million childcare spaces subsidized across Canada at monthly cost of $15/per child. “For every $1 invested in child care, we get $2 in economic growth,” she said.

Cannan: Cited his government’s long-term relationship with Kelowna airport as local economic driver, as are efforts to promote technology growth, environment preservation projects particularly regarding water quality, agriculture growth and the CN Rail Corridor project. “Some people have the vision to see that extended now all the way to Sicamous. What an iconic tourism legacy that would be,” he said.

Fuhr: Liberal emphasis would be on water quality enhancement, providing low income housing and stimulating greater expansion of innovation and technology sectors to create more skilled jobs.


Support muzzling of scientists?

Cannan: Defended criticism of Harper government to muzzle scientists from speaking out, saying ministers should be official voice of their ministries, and that not all scientists agree on every issue. “For me, I have a good relationship with local research groups and work we have done in support of the water board initiatives,” he said.

Fuhr: Scientific research community has been muzzled by Conservatives, which he says has extended to Statistics Canada research. “Ending the long form Census has also left future spending decisions being made without the appropriate data in place,” he said.

Bowman: Any researchers with a Phd are hesitant now to take on federal government initiated research projects, for fear of political interference or how the results are handled. “With Liquified Natural Gas, for example, who would want to take on doing a research paper on that,” she said. She said scientists need to be recognized for their knowledge, not have their findings muzzled, and those ideas need to be shared with others and debated. “Decisions are being made on false or questionable data,” she said if scientific research is not freely released for public input.


Marijuana decriminalization

Fuhr: Decriminalizing marijuana will unplug the crowded court system, offer a potential tax benefit. Should be dealt with as a civil, not a criminal offence.

Bowman: Decriminalizing possession for small amount will allow people traveling internationally won’t be stuck with a criminal record, limiting access to other countries. Legalization would be a more significant step that she feels requires in put from police, schools, social workers and health care workers. “I would like to see more consultation before adopting legalization,” she said.

Cannan: Admits status quo for marijuana possession is not working, but personally conflicted by damage drug abuse has done to some of his own family members and the message it sends to youth. Cited study done in Amsterdam, Holland, where legalization has shown marijuana use 300 to 400 per cent higher among young people. “I think more sound research needs to be done before we can move forward on this,” he said.


Use of omnibus legislative bills?

Fuhr: Budget only legislation that requires omnibus process. Each piece of legislation should be adopted or defeated on its own merits. “It’s kind of the slide one past the goalie idea,” he said of reliance on omnibus process.

Bowman: NDP against omnibus process, saying both Liberals and Conservatives have used that formula in the past. “We need to see legislative bills debated in Parliament, and (MPs) having to debate them and show up for votes,” she said.

Cannan: Said idea of putting more than one piece of legislation under a single bill has been commonly done by governments in the past. In response to the idea Conservatives are trying to sneak unpopular bills under the umbrella of other legislation that is desired, he said: “I can assure you that nothing happens quickly in Ottawa…there is ample debate by all parties and at committee levels before any legislation is ever passed in Parliament.”


Greenhouse gas emissions

Bowman: Conservatives have ignored this issue for the past decade, saying the NDP would look to implement a cap and trade system to meet government target of 30 per cent decrease in CO2 greenhouse emissions by 2030. (Cap and trade is regulatory system that is meant to reduce certain kinds of emissions and pollution and to provide companies with a profit incentive to reduce their pollution levels faster than their peers.)

Cannan: Conservatives committed to maintaining a balance between economic growth and greenhouse gas reduction. Finding a “clean and green” energy strategy will come from investment in technology sector. “This is a global problem. First, I think we need to have a continental approach to dealing with greenhouse gases and then take that abroad as a next step,” he said. Not in favour of imposing a federal carbon tax upon the provincial carbon tax in B.C. already in place.

Fuhr: Under Conservatives, climate change has gone from top third to bottom third of government priorities, and that needs to change. He said Liberals would also invite premiers to attend upcoming climate change conference in Paris, because provinces and federal government will need to collaborate on this issue.

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