In the end, it was at the end that the sparks finally flew.
Two of the three candidates seeking election in Kelowna-Lake Country left it to their wrap-up remarks Monday during an all-candidates meeting to take direct shots at each other.
Liberal Stephen Fuhr started it when, in appealing for support, he told the audience there is no way the NDP will form the next federal government and locally, no way NDP candidate Norah Bowman would attract moderate Conservatives—who he called the “Conservative swing vote”— who are fed up with their party’s leader Stephen Harper.
The remarks brought loud boos from Bowman’s supporters in the crowd of about 100 people at the Kelowna Seniors’ Society Centre.
Not to be outdone, Bowman, when she was given her turn at the microphone, shot back, reminding the audience the NDP had 103 seats in the last Parliament compared to the Liberals 34.
And she didn’t stop there, blasting Liberal leader Justin Trudeau as someone who has not stood up to Harper in the past. “How can he stand up to someone like (Russian leader Vladimir) Putin if he can’t stand up to Harper?,” said Bowman to cheers from her supporters.
Meanwhile, the man Fuhr and Bowman are trying to unseat, Conservative incumbent Ron Cannan, avoided the fray, sticking to listing achievements for the riding since he was first elected MP in 2006.
The exchange between Fuhr and Bowman capped a 90-minute question and answer session that allowed the three candidates to tell the audience what their respective parties would do on a wide range issues including climate change, funding science, help for Canada’s aboriginal people, poverty and even the CBC.
All three claimed to love the CBC and their parties would support it. The Conservative government has been criticized in the past for budget cuts to the CBC.
Both Bowman and Cannan stressed their party’s plans to balance the budget, while Fuhr defended his party’s plan to run deficit budgets for three years to fund the party’s infrastructure program. The Liberals say they would also reduce taxes for the middle class, a move Fuhr said would help in a number of ways.
Bowman said the NDP will raise much of the money it needs for promised programs, such as more daycare spaces at a maximum of $15 per day, by increasing taxes on big corporations to 17 per cent from 15 per cent and working with the provinces.
Cannan touted his party’s plans to fund infrastructure across Canada, calling his party’s program the biggest investment in infrastructure this country has ever seen. In doing so, he cited a long list of local projects that have received federal money.
He said that was part of the reason he ran for MP in the first place, to make sure this community received as many federal dollars for programs as possible.
Fuhr, a retired Canadian Air Force fighter pilot, said growth and jobs are the main issues in this election. He said the Liberals will fund programs aimed at increasing jobs so families have options when it comes to issue like daycare.
Both he and Bowman, a professor at Okanagan College, repeatedly said that under the federal Conservative government, Canada has lost 400,000 jobs since 2006.
The all-candidates’ meeting was originally planned to be a joint meeting for both the Kelowna-Lake Country and Central Okanagan-Similkameen-Nicola candidates. But it ended up limited to just the Kelowna-Lake Country candidates after Conservative Dan Albas initially, followed by the other three Central-Okanagan-Similkameen-Nicola candidates, choosing to attend a meeting in Summerland instead, said Jeannette Mergens, with the Canadian University Women’s Club, which organized the Kelowna meeting.