After some back and forth discussion, a date for a debate in Golden has officially been declared.
The All Candidates Forum will take place on Sept. 22 at the Golden Civic Centre and will be hosted by the Kicking Horse Country Chamber of Commerce. The Golden forum will be part of a series of forums across the riding as local candidates make their case to the voting public in advance of the Oct. 19 federal election.
Discussion points in the forum will range from local issues such as transportation and Golden’s economy to more national issues like the environment and foreign policy. Questions will be supplied through public consultation.
The Chamber’s board of directors will pick which questions will make it into the forum, but the candidates will not be permitted to view any of the questions in advance.
Candidates for each of the Conservative Party, the Liberal Party, the NDP and the Green Party have accepted invitations to participate in the forum. Libertarian Party candidate Christina Yahn says she hopes to attend and bring food security issues to the forefront of the discussion.
While incumbents often take the most heat from other candidates in these types of debates, none of the four MP-hopefuls that have committed to the Sept. 22 forum believed that was going to be the case in this instance.
“I hope it’s good discussion, that’s what I’m looking forward to,” said David Wilks of the Conservative Party, the incumbent. “If it does happen…then I’ll deal with it from that perspective.”
“I can’t anticipate what other people will do. For me personally, I’m much more interested in using the debate opportunity to give people a sense of who I am and what I bring to the race,” said Liberal candidate Don Johnston.
Instead, there are other items to discuss that should pique everyone’s interest.
“Trans-Canada Highway, Trans-Canada Highway, Trans-Canada Highway…certainly in the Revelstoke and Golden area, it is the number one issue,” Wilks said.
“Certainly the economy, jobs within the Golden area especially with the Temporary Foreign Workers Program and the environment, but certainly (at the) top of the list is the Trans-Canada Highway,” he added.
“I’m assuming (the public) will ask about the Trans-Canada Highway, the National Parks portion of it in particular which for a long time has been in need of repair and improvement,” said Wayne Stetski of the NDP. “The state of the National Parks in general is important to people that live in Golden.”
“What I’m finding throughout the riding is the economy and jobs, that’s no surprise…it varies a bit from community to community depending on the strength of their local economy but I think it is, overall, a top campaign issue,” said Bill Green of the Green Party.
Strategic voting is a reality of the first past the post system and will likely play a role again when the electorate goes to the polls on Oct. 19. According to a recent Léger poll, only 24 per cent of respondents want the current government to be re-elected, which is surprisingly less than the Conservative’s level of support, which stands at 28 per cent according to the same poll. That’s two points behind the second-place Liberals and three points behind the NDP in what has become a hotly contested three-way race at the national level.
That could lead traditionally Liberal voters to choose the NDP, or vice versa, depending on who is seen as having the bigger chance to topple the Tories.
Stetski, whose party finished in a clear second place in Kootenay-Columbia four years ago, welcomes the idea of strategic voting on election day.
“When you look at the numbers, the NDP in this riding are best positioned to make that change happen that Canadians are looking for across Canada,” he said.
Johnston, whose Liberals finished a distant fourth in 2011, says that the candidate forums scheduled to take place across the riding will give him a chance to show voters what he and his party are about.
“(The forum) is where people get a chance to take the measure of the candidate and sort of get away a little bit from all of the noise…at the national level,” Johnston said. “At the end of the day, I’m asking people to elect Don Johnston. I’m not asking them to elect Justin Trudeau. I’m saying, as the Liberal candidate, that I’m an option that deserves fair and reasonable consideration.”
As for Green, the debates will also be an opportunity for him to show the public that his party is an option for those seeking change.
“I’m trying to convince people that we’re running a strong campaign, that Green support is growing across B.C. and in this riding.”
“One of the advantages of a long campaign period is that people have two and a half months to learn about the candidates, the policies, the parties and priorities…we need to encourage more people to vote…and vote positively for the changes they want,” Green said.
Members of the voting public are free to submit their questions to the Chamber in person or online by Sept. 16.
Doors will open on Sept. 22 at 6:30 p.m. and the forum will begin at 7:00 p.m.