Election 2015: Candidates eager to debate in eight communities

MP hopefuls for the Kootenay-Columbia riding are hoping to have debates in each of the riding's major centres.

The Kootenay Columbia riding is a large one, covering 64,000 square kilometres. It’s a lot of ground to cover for each of the Member of Parliament hopefuls in the riding, but with this election’s extended campaign period, the candidates are up for the challenge.

“We’re getting out and about to meet as many people as we can,” said Liberal candidate Don Johnston, adding that not much has changed since the election was officially called.

Wayne Stetski, running with the NDP, and Bill Green, running with the Greens, have also begun pounding the pavement in the Kootenay Columbia. Stetski alone has already knocked on hundreds of doors, including many in Golden.

“The number one thing that I’ve been hearing from people is that it’s time for change, and that Harper needs to go,” he said.

“I’ve also heard that from people who traditionally support the Conservatives, that they’re not happy with the direction things are going.”

Green echoed that sentiment saying that he’s, “hearing very strongly that people are ready for change.”

Earlier in the summer, Stetski sent out a challenge to incumbent David Wilks (Conservative) and the other candidates to eight debates in eight communities. Since then, representatives from Stetski, Green and Johnston have been meeting to co-ordinate schedules so that the candidates can attend forums in communities that decide to organize one.

“I’m looking forward to debating Wilks any chance I get,” said Stetski. “I think it’s really important for the people to have an opportunity to see us in person, and be able to ask questions.”

Several issues can be expected to arise as the campaign goes on, but as usual the candidates expect jobs and the economy to top the list.

“In our region in particular, we have to look at the environment and climate together with the economy,” said Johnston. “We live here because it’s beautiful, and there are so many natural resources here, so we need to move towards jobs in green technologies, and we can do it.”

“This region has a plethora of renewable energy resources, and we can build an economy around that,” said Green. “It will be about getting the incentives right.”

But before any change can happen, voters need to get out and voice their concerns, which the candidates agree will probably happen more after summer.

“What I suggest and encourage people to do is to pick one issue they care about and Google it,” said Stetski. “You’ll see the difference in our platforms and you’ll see why Harper needs to go.”

In the last federal election in 2011, Kootenay Columbia had a 63 per cent voter turnout, with David Wilks winning with 23,910 votes. The NDP candidate received 14,199, Green received 2,547, and Liberal received 1,496.

David Wilks could not be reached by print deadline.