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FOULDS: All-candidates forum a mostly cordial affair

Due to pandemic-related gathering restrictions, the Sept. 13 event was held without an audience and broadcast online and on the radio.
Foulds Christopher column head

There was an interesting moment during Monday night’s debate amongst Kamloops-Thompson-Cariboo federal election candidates.

NDP candidate Bill Sundhu channeled a question from Ronald Reagan’s campaign during the landmark 1980 U.S. election.

Back then, Reagan, the challenger, looked into the camera during a debate with incumbent U.S. president Jimmy Carter and asked voters: “Are you better off today than you were four years ago?”

It remains one of the most effective questions/comments ever made during a campaign.

At Monday night’s debate — organized by KTW, Radio NL and the Kamloops Chamber of Commerce — Sundhu noted the riding has been led by a Conservative/Canadian Alliance MP for the past two decades and asked viewers and listeners: “After 20 years of the same representation, are you better off?”

It is a good question, then and now, but it should be noted the two Conservative MPs in Kamloops this century were not always in government.

For the past six years, in fact, whether we are better off today is a query completely connected to the Liberals — and local candidate Jesse McCormick.

But the reality of the election locally is that Sundhu, and many others, see it as a race between Sundhu the New Democrat and Conservative candidate Frank Caputo, with the Liberals likely finishing third, followed by the rest. Whether that pans out remains to be seen, but this is the scenario upon which Monday’s debate was held.

Sundhu focused on Caputo, Caputo focused on leader Erin O’Toole’s plans and McCormick focused on his experience working on Parliament Hill.

Refreshingly, Green candidate Iain Currie focused on the fact political hubris prevents parties from realizing (and acting on the fact) there is consensus on myriad issues, as was seen during the debate when candidates spoke on housing, child care and climate change.

RELATED: Notes from the forum

Yes, the seven candidates responded to questions on various issues — homelessness, housing, child care, crime, climate change, Indigenous reconciliation and tourism — but much of what they said can be read in the party platforms.

There were some interesting comments that appeared to be original, perhaps none more so than Independent candidate Wayne Allan’s opposition to gun control laws, arguing residents need weapons as animals, including coyotes, roam into town after being displaced by wildfires. We can assume Allan has cornered the roadrunner vote.

People’s Party candidate Corally Delwo made a strong point during discussion on climate change, arguing reforestation policy needs to be revamped, pointing out the need to use deciduous and other species — an issue environmental groups have raised this past summer — rather than allow the planting of “for-profit trees.”

While the evening was, for the most part, cordial, McCormick inserted a barb during a discussion on tourism recovery from the pandemic. He referred to Caputo’s non-answer to a question on B.C.’s vaccine card program and claimed Conservatives “are cuddling up to anti-vaxxers.”

That Liberal tact of connecting Conservatives to anti-vaxxers is one that is being used more frequently as the campaign nears the end, with leader Justin Trudeau using it often in the past week.

On that note, the two-pronged, yes or no question relating to vaccination drew varied answers. The question: Do you support B.C.’s vaccine card program and are you vaccinated against COVID-19?

Currie, Sundhu and McCormick all answered “yes” to both queries.

Caputo said he has been vaccinated, but did not answer the question of whether he supports the vaccination card program, instead noting it is a provincial health order and that people with concerns should contact their MLA. A “yes” or “no” answer would have been more impressive than a reply that merely adhered to the leader of the party’s stance on vaccine mandates.

Delwo, of course, noted her opposition to such programs and refused to divulge whether she has been vaccinated (which, I suspect, will preclude her from enjoying a pint at a pub for the foreseeable future).

Surprising, at least to me, were the forceful comments from both independent candidates as they stated their opposition to B.C.’s vaccine card program. Allan declared he was against the program and said he is not vaccinated, later adding: “I resent the fact the Liberals have taken a billion-dollar bounty out on the unvaccinated people of Canada. This, to me, is tryanny.”

O’Brien confirmed he is vaccinated because he cares for elderly relatives, but noted he is opposed to the program: “I cannot imagine a world where I’d force someone else to take the vaccine.”

The election is on Sept. 20. The website has all the information you need on where to vote and what forms of identification you need to bring with you. @ChrisJFoulds