By Steve Hubrecht
[email protected]

The candidates running for election in Kootenay Columbia are unable to physically gather for a forum or debate in the Columbia Valley, as has traditionally happened in past elections, owing to restrictions stemming from the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic. The Columbia Valley Chamber of Commerce came up with a creative alternative, gathering the candidate virtually last week for a digital forum.

In the forum, which went live on Friday, Sept. 10, each candidate gives a three minute video presentation in which they speak on the issues of housing, the COVID-19 pandemic, and Reconciliation.

“Given the current landscape we are dealing with in terms of hosting events, we thought this was a good approach to use,” Chamber of Commerce Executive Director, Pete Bourke told the Pioneer. “It was something unique for us, but we thought it was pretty successful.”

Liberal candidate Robin Goldsbury touted the Liberal national housing plan, and on the topic of COVID-19 said, “if we want to see normal again, the science is clear: vaccinations work.” She said Canada needs to face-up to the terrible history of how Indigenous people have been treated, and finished her video by focusing on her history as a small business owner in the riding, which she contrasted to Conservative candidate Rob Morrison and NDP candidate Wayne Stetski, both of whom had long careers in the public sector.

Conservative candidate (and incumbent MP), Rob Morrison emphasized the Conservative housing plan, pointing out many businesses in the riding are desperate for employees but that “even though there are a lot of Help Wanted sings, especially in the service industry, it’s not just ‘Help Wanted’, it’s ‘where do we put these people’?”. In terms of COVID-19, Morrison pointed to his history as an MP of advocating for rapid testing at borders and airports as a means to get international visitors back in the tourism-dependent Kootenay communities that need them to help economically recover from the pandemic. He said he believes all the recommendations from the Truth and Reconciliation Commission should be implemented immediately.

Green candidate, Rana Nelson said, speaking on the housing crisis, that “the solution to not enough houses is to build more housing” as well as retrofit existing housing units. Nelson said that the Greens will continue and will expand COVID-19 supports for individuals and business, and that Reconciliation “must underpin everything we are doing.” She added everybody except Indigenous people are newcomers to Kootenay Columbia and that “we haven’t managed that move here very well at all.”

PPC candidate, Sarah Bennett said that people are feeling the effects of the pandemic’s 18-month “downward spiral” and that “there is a fallout to the fearful climate that has been perpetually stoked by our governments.” She spoke against vaccine passports saying they “have no place in a free and open society.” Bennett said, on Indigenous issues and Reconciliation, that Canada’s historical treatment of Indigenous people is terrible and a better way needs to be found going forward, noting the PPC advocates replacing the Indian Act with a new legal framework.

NDP candidate, Wayne Stetski said from what he’s heard on the campaign trail, housing is the second biggest issue in Kootenay Columbia (he added climate change is the biggest), and “the lack of affordable housing is keeping people from living better lives, but also keeping businesses from being successful” as there is nowhere affordable for would-be employees to live, and touted the NDP’s housing plan. Stetski said COVID-19 supports for individuals and businesses needs to continue but that “we absolutely need to transition to subsidizing people for going to work, not staying home.” He said he supports implementing all the recommendations from the Truth and Reconciliation Commission, and that the best place to start is by making sure Indigenous people living on reserves have access to the same services as every other citizen and that this must include access to clean drinking water.

For more see the forum in its entirety here: