Election 2015: Waters: Radio all-candidates forum a civilized affair

Liberal, Conservative and NDP candidates stick to the issues during questions on fighter planes, veterans, refugees and daycare.

The three candidates running in the Kelowna-Lake Country riding took to the radio airwaves Tuesday morning in the first all-candidates’ meeting of the campaign in the riding.

The AM1150 broadcast gathering – it could not really be called a debate because the trio of Conservative Ron Cannan, Liberal Stephen Fuhr and the NDP’s Norah Bowman spoke to listeners rather than to each other—was rather tame affair.

But it did start on an interesting note.

In a reversal of what we are seeing on a national level, it was the Liberal candidate, Fuhr, who came out on the attack. Given 90 seconds to introduce themselves, Bowman talked about herself, Cannan talked about his party and Fuhr attacked the Conservatives.

Nationally, voters have been fed a steady diet of Conservative attack ads for the last few months, first aimed at Liberal leader Justin Trudeau, who the Tories label as “just not ready,” and, of late, against NDP leader Thomas Mulcair, derided as a “just another career politician.” The fact Conservative leader Stephen Harper was elected to parliament a year before Mulcair entered the National Assembly in Quebec (he served there before heading to Ottawa) is not mentioned. Harper, who has been prime minister for the last 10 years, did take five years off in the late 1990s during his Reform Party days to run a politically-active conservative lobby group, the National Citizens’ Coalition. So maybe in the minds of those crafting the attack ads, that makes him less of a career politician than Mulcair.

But back to the local candidates.

Just four issues were covered in the radio forum, fighter plans for the Canadian Air Force, veteran’s affairs, refugees and daycare.

The trio echoed their party’s respective positions on the issues and the only time anyone was challenged was when host Phil Johnson reminded Cannan he supported closing the veteran’s affairs office in Kelowna.

Cannan didn’t answer that directly but said a veteran’s affairs desk was set up as a replacement in the federal services building downtown to help vets.

On Monday, Mulcair announced an NDP government would reopen the closed veterans’ affairs offices, a move Bowman welcomed.

On the issue of new fighter planes for the air force, Cannan, as you would expect, touted the current government plan, Fuhr, a retired air force pilot, opposes it saying it’s the wrong decision for Canada  and Bowman said the NDP would take a closer look at what’s on the table.

On the question of refugees all three had different numbers in mind when it came to how many refugees to take in.

Daycare brought out some more differences, the NDP says it would create one million more daycare spaces, which would cost parents  around $15 per day. The Liberals blast the plan as taking eight years to achieve, which is too long, Fuhr said tax breaks for families and the middle class are better and the Conservatives tout the moves the last government made, giving families tax relief and more money to the provinces for social programs.

The substance-over-style approach delivered by the local trio, while not the most riveting listening, was strangely refreshing given the sound and fury we are hearing at the national level.

When Bowman, Cannan and Fuhr only talked about planes, vets, refugees and kids, they concentrated on what their respective parties will do, not what the other parties have not done. If they keep this up, we may have that most unlikely of scenarios in Canadian politics of late, a respectful campaign focusing on ideas.

Huh? Who would have thunk it?

Alistair Waters is the assistant editor of the Capital News.