A meet and greet for federal election candidates in Invermere brought out between 20 and 30 members of the public last week. The event at the Columbia Valley Chamber of Commerce / Lions Hall on Friday, Sept. 20th was pitched as a meet and greet with all candidates. Showing up for the evening was incumbent MP and NDP candidate Wayne Stetski; Liberal candidate Robin Goldsbury; Green candidate Abra Brynne; and People’s Party of Canada candidate Rick Stewart.
The meet and greet turned into a somewhat informal forum. But with no official moderator and itinerary, only a few formal questions were answered in the two-hour event.
In regards to why each candidate is running, Ms. Goldsbury said as a business owner, she has been “in the trenches” and understands the problems Kootenay residents face.
“It’s time that the Liberal voice is heard in the Kootenay-Columbia in Ottawa,” she said.
Ms. Brynne said, “I never envisioned getting into politics until basically I felt that the climate crisis was of significant urgency, and I didn’t see enough of the right kind of political leadership in Ottawa that was taking it seriously enough.”
Mr. Stewart told attendees, “I came out into politics with People’s Party of Canada because I recognized something’s wrong in our system these days.”
Speaking of his time in office, Mr. Stetski said, “You get the opportunity to try and make Canada a better country and you learn every day as a Member of Parliament because of meetings like this and keeping in touch with your constituents. So that’s what makes the job so special and that’s why I want to do it for another four years.”
Each candidate shared some key planks from their respective party platforms, and referred to their party’s online platforms for more details.
The NDP’s 107 page platform, Mr. Stetski said, included climate change response, universal healthcare, free post-secondary education, proportional representation, and affordable housing.
“We live in one of the best countries in the world,” said Mr. Stetski. “But when I think about what Canada can be, when you look at putting all those things in place – affordable housing, universal healthcare, free tuition for college and university, proportional representation voting so every vote counts, dealing with climate change, transitioning people into a green energy future with good jobs, I really get excited about the kind of country Canada can be.”
Ms. Goldsbury said the Liberal party has already started on some “fantastic initiatives” but warned against making too many promises and noted that it takes time to make change.
“It’s easy to make a bunch of promises. We’ve got an economic perspective we’ve got to consider as well,” said Ms. Goldsbury. “We’ve got dollars going to invest in Canada and Canadians, but we’re doing it smart. We’re investing in Canadians, we’re investing in all kinds of amazing social programs, and it’s working.”
Ms. Brynne said the Green party certainly had overlap with other parties on platform planks in areas such as health care, the climate crisis, and proportional representation. Ms. Brynne spoke to the concept of strategic voting, saying she feels people are getting tired of having this conversation every four years.
“I personally think voting with our heart is a really important thing to do at this point in the history of the planet. But proportional representation would eliminate that rather silly and, I think, somewhat tedious conversation we have every four years in this country,” Ms. Brynne said.
Ms. Brynne was the only candidate to speak at length about indigenous issues and how the Green party will work on “true reconciliation.”
Mr. Stewart’s platform points had little overlap with the other three candidates, citing the need for a smaller, balanced budget over more social spending.
“I’ve heard some things that I don’t really agree with here tonight, or that concern me. When I hear the word ‘free’ being used by government, it’s got to be understood that government has nothing to give you that they haven’t already taken from you in the form of taxes,” said Mr. Stewart.
Mr. Stewart said his party does not subscribe to the “great climate problem that we have.” He said there needs to be more study, and that media and scientists need to be unbridled to look at what’s going on. He also said the PPC would defund the CBC.
A question was asked about small business support, with each candidate assuring that their party looked to support small business in Canada. Dropping taxes, capping credit card fees, getting rid of capital gain taxes and supporting local businesses were among candidate pitches on the matter.
The Pioneer asked candidates what are some of the key issues they see in the Columbia Valley through this election and over the next term. Mr. Stetski listed forestry including the lumber tariffs, the water bottle plants proposed and the larger issue of water in the region, and agriculture, before Ms. Goldsbury stopped him to suggest other candidates would like to answer too.
During her answer to the question, Ms. Goldsbury brought up the Columbia River treaty, saying it is an important issue that “didn’t come up with Mr. Stetski.” She also listed resource extraction, transportation, urban migration, and geographic fragmentation in the Kootenay-Columbia riding.
Mr. Stewart cited regional issues as the lumber tariffs, drug problems, and responsible resource development.
Ms. Brynne referenced her work on sustainable meat systems, cutting down of raw logs and shipping them off to other countries, the importance of water, affordable housing and the possibility of a light rail transit system in the region.
The event itself was not organized until after the Pioneer went to press last week. People were told the event would still go ahead under short notice because all candidates were prepared to be at the Invermere event on that day.