Two of the three Kelowna-Mission candidates vying for votes in the 2020 B.C. election took the stage at an electoral forum on Tuesday afternoon, giving the electorate a taste of what to expect if they earn the seat in the legislature.
The BC Greens’ Amanda Poon and The BC Liberals’ Renee Merrifield faced off for nearly 90 minutes tackling several issues, both at the local and provincial levels. The BC NDP candidate for the riding, Krystal Smith, declined to participate in the forum.
The event, hosted by the Kelowna Chamber of Commerce, saw candidates given 90 seconds to answer questions posed to them before the other was allowed 60 seconds to respond.
Discussing taxation, both acknowledged the tough times brought about by the COVID-19 pandemics and elaborated on how they and their respective parties would address the struggles of individuals and small businesses.
Merrifield, as the owner of local developer Troika, said she has felt the “pinch” and says the BC Liberals are committed to making that better through across-the-board tax cuts. Merrifield said her party would remove the small business tax, which currently sits at two per cent, in addition to their campaign promise to suspend PST.
“Governments don’t bring back economies, consumers do,” she said.
Poon retorted by saying B.C.’s economy is very sophisticated and the cuts proposed by the Liberals would do more harm than good to the local economy, adding that the PST cut would cost $11 billion over two years. Her party, rather, is proposing specific, targeted tax cuts, where they’re deemed most necessary.
“This is not a dollar store,” she said. “When we just slash and discount — and discount the value of the labour of our workers; discount the value of our precious resources — that has unintended costs.
“What we get a deal on today, we pay for tomorrow.”
Speaking on affordable housing, a significant issue across the metro portion of the Kelowna-Mission riding, agreed that changes need to be made with regards to housing, but not on what those changes should be.
“This affordability problem isn’t going to be solved by having cheaper cabinets in your mansion in Kettle Valley,” said Poon. “Our party isn’t looking at making life easier for folks at the very top and hoping it’ll trickle down. We know that never happens.”
She suggested moving towards co-op housing and implementing housing policies that are inclusive of all families, not just those with two-incomes.
Merrifield said the issue again comes to taxes and tackling the “layering effect” that certain taxes have. She also mentioned the need to focus on the economy and the effect that the struggling forestry industry has had on home prices.
“In the last 30 days, housing prices have increased by $30,000 per home because of lumber (costs).”
A question about tourism resulted in a conversation largely about the balance between helping businesses survive the turmoil brought about by the pandemic and adhering to public health advice on the matter.
Poon, who is an analyst for the Interior Health Authority, mentioned the importance of the work she and her colleagues have done through the pandemic but acknowledged tourism and hospitality needs to be bolstered to allow businesses to make it through the winter, adding that the season is already a tough time for local businesses. Her party is in support of grants to assist those businesses.
However, Poon noted businesses have found innovative ways to continue operating while staying safe thus far in the pandemic. She said she wants to listen to local entrepreneurs and support similar initiatives at a governmental level.
Merrifield said an economic plan is needed to move businesses forward. She said she believes in the resiliency of local businesses, as exemplified by the local company which broadcasted the forum, SW Events Technology.
“We’re sitting in a facility today, that was created out of necessity — created out of a disruption,” Merrifield said. She believes that type of innovation needs to be looked at by other companies, allowing for larger events to continue even amid the pandemic.
“We need to support our tourism and restaurant industries right now.”
If you’d like to watch the full forum, the Chamber of Commerce plans to upload a video of the broadcast to its YouTube channel.
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