It’s still unclear whether Canada’s going to get another minority government out of the election, but eight candidates from the two ridings that straddle the Central Okanagan stressed they believe the makeup of the House of Commons is secondary to responsive and inclusive governance.
As is, claimed incumbent MP Ron Cannan, during the Canadian Federation Of University Women’s political forum, the election was unnecessary because Parliament has been working across party lines to best address the issues of Canadians.
His comment that it was an “unnecessary election,” however, was met with grumbles from the other candidates at the forum, particularly Okanagan Coquihalla candidate John Kidder.
“We need to restore the democratic process,” he told the 200-plus crowd .
Canada has a history of successful minority governments. In fact, he pointed out, Universal health care came to be under a minority government, but the political climate of today is dysfunctional and too entrenched in party lines.
“My father was a Conservative and my mother was a CCF member—so I had no choice but to be Liberal,” he said, starting upon a story about when he learned that party allegiance should be secondary to successful governance.
“We had gone to see Tommy Douglas, and I asked my dad, ‘why are we here, he’s CCF?’. And my dad said, ‘Tommy Douglas is a hero, you have to get past the labels that divide us. What we have in common is more important than what keeps us apart.’”
Kidder’s comment didn’t highlight political policy, but it gained hearty applause from the 200-plus crowd gathered at the Richter Street seniors centre and set the stage for independent, Green and NDP candidates to all extoll the virtues of functional government.
The rest of the topics discussed were drawn from a list of questions the organizers and the audience put forth, and touched on everything from candidate competency to the Free Trade agreement, environment, health care and education.
Although the crowd was largely comprised of elderly Kelowna residents, questions about post secondary education policies offered a moment when many left their cheat sheets to discuss their take.
Liberals Kris Stewart (Kelonwa-Lake Country) and Kidder said they favour policies that would allow all fit students to enter university or college.
“If you get the grades, you get to go,” said Stewart, making reference to a learning passport, grant program.
Kidder pointed out that he thought it’s time that governments stop stymieing recently graduated students with high interest loan repayment.
“Student loans shouldn’t get passed to banks,” he said, pointing out the debt should be held by the federal government. “They should be paid back out of income tax, as is the case with European countries.”
The Green Party’s Alice Hooper and Dan Bouchard stressed their party would like to see students granted access to student loans, regardless of their parents’ income. Bouchard also questioned why students repaid debt at a prime plus-two per cent rate.
“Why do we draw profits from student debt?” he said.
Cannan took a different tack, pointing out the feds invested in infrastructure at UBCO and Okanagan College, and that is a benefit to the post secondary system.
Immigration issues also arose out of the conversation after it was pointed out that some of the country’s most educated and under-utilized citizens were immigrants.
“They say the safest place in Vancouver to have a heart attack is the back of a cab,” said Cannan, before noting he’d like to see grants that allow immigrants to renew their professional accreditations from abroad, within a Canadian context.
Independent candidate from Okanagan Coquihalla Sean Upshaw said “there’s something wrong when there’s a doctor driving a cab” noting he’d favour policies to change those conditions.
NDP candidates David Finnis and Tisha Kalmanovich pointed out the issue has been a thorn in the side of Canadian immigrants for years, but nothing has been done about it. That in itself shows how important it is to the dominant parties of Canada, she said.
Kathy Michaels is a Capital News reporter.