An all-candidates forum for the Columbia River Revelstoke riding was held virtually on the evening of Wednesday, Oct. 21 ahead of the 2020 B.C. provincial election.
Candidates Samson Boyer of the Green Party, Nicole Cherlet of the NDP and incumbent Doug Clovechok of the BC Liberals had a shared 90 minutes, moderated by former Columbia Valley Pioneer publisher Dean Midyette, to weigh in on the issues which impact the lives of voters in their riding.
Prevailing issues of discussion included healthcare how, it impacts those living in rural ridings, longterm and assisted living care for seniors, affordable housing, climate change and achieving carbon neutrality, conservation and, of course the COVID-19 pandemic and recovery efforts looking ahead.
Boyer, the young candidate from Columbia-River Revelstoke said he’s running because he believes politics can be done differently, and that the Green Party has demonstrated that through three years of coalition government that it can be done differently.
Cherlet, a city councillor and small business owner out of Revelstoke acknowledged the common threads she’s heard as she travelled the riding; affordability, staying safe, access to healthcare, mental health support, childcare and housing.
“I put my name forward in this election because I believe the BC NDP are the right team to make sure that we build a recovery from COVID-19 that includes everyone, not just those at the very top,” she said.
Clovechok, the BC Liberal incumbent, said he ran in 2013 and 2017 because he heard from people that their voices were not being heard at home or in Victoria.
“I think back to 2017 when I was campaigning and I remember someone in Revelstoke said what are you going to promise us. Well I promised two things, I promised I’d work my tail off and I promised I’d never lie and the rest we’d work out together and we’ve done exactly that and I’ve kept my word and I’m very proud of the work that we’ve been able to do together.”
READ MORE: Clovechok is running on his record
Clovechok was asked to explain the rationale behind the BC Liberals’ plan to eliminate the Provincial Sales Tax (PST), for one year and then reinstate it after a year at a lower rate of three per cent; how it would benefit British Columbians and impact small businesses who collect PST.
“You have to look at this from a pandemic perspective and an economic crisis,” Clovechok replied. “We haven’t been in a crisis like this since the end of World War 2 and we’ve got to provide what people call stimulus spending, we’ve got to get people back to work and we’ve got to create jobs to get the economy rolling again.”
He said that the impact here in the Columbia Valley is going to be “remarkable,” saying that in the tourism sector alone, PST accounts for around $1.8 billion a year, that he said could be circulated back into the economy and help keep local businesses open.
Each candidate brought back large scale levels to a local and personal level. For example, when asked to describe the Green Party’s basic income plan, Boyer discussed growing up feeling the stress of poverty.
““I grew up most of my life with my parents making less than $40,000 a year. I grew up feeling the stress of poverty and I know that I’m not alone,” he said.
“I know that there are a lot of young people who grew up in homes like that and there are a lot of parents who are fighting about how they are going to pay the bills in the next couple months, especially due to COVID now. That’s why I’m so excited about a basic income program.”
He said his party’s plan would apply to youth coming out of foster care and would provide them $20,000 annually at a cost of $57 million.
“That sounds like a lot but in the provincial budget it’s a drop in the bucket and what’s even more incredible is it might actually save the government anywhere between 20 to $150 million annually because when people don’t live in poverty, they can go out and be a participant.”
On the issue of affordable housing and rental affordability, Boyer again personalized the issue, saying that as a young student living in the East Kootenay, he “knows for a fact that I will not be able to afford a house for decades and will have to keep renting.”
Cherlet pointed out that she too is still renting her home in Revelstoke.
“I am a tenant in this market, I tried to find a new rental this spring and every place that we looked at had 30 inquiries within 24 hours. That is a weird situation to be in.
“We need to have that pathway to home ownership that does not include an old mobile trailer on a rental pad for $185,000. This is an outrageous ask and when I’m talking to people on my council and everywhere else I’m talking to, the lack of perspective is mind boggling because when you bought your home I bet it was under $100,000 and I bet it wasn’t that hard to qualify for a mortgage compared to what it is now.”
She said her personal perspective allows her to ask different questions.
Cherlet also talked about losing one of her core staff members, because they couldn’t find adequate affordable childcare, another big topic of discussion for the evening.
“Some of the controversies surrounding this election were discussed as well. Boyer was critical of the NDP for calling an election during a pandemic.
“I question how much the BC NDP have been listening to professionals in and around COVID,” he said. “ … I think that we can all accept that holding an election during a pandemic is not the safest thing for British Columbians and isn’t looking out for our best interests. We had another year before another election was supposed to be called and other than looking for a majority, looking for power, I don’t see why we’re forcing voters to go to the polls.”
Cherlet, after commending Clovechok for discussing some progressive policies coming from his party, circled back and addressed some of the controversial comments made by people in the party.
“Just to put a little bit of a caveat on my last comment when I was grateful for the policies coming forward from the BC Liberals, I don’t know that I would go so far as to call the party itself progressive,” she said. “Some of the comments we’ve been seeing coming out the Lower Mainland horrify me.
“The mention of conversion therapy and talking about eugenics when it comes to birth control, there’s some clean up that needs to happen there and I think we’re all pretty confident that Andrew Wilkinson is probably not going to form the next government.”
Clovechok had some strong words of his own for Cherlet, particularly after she discussed the NDP’s work in the field of child care.
“I think it’s a little rich when Nicole says what they’ve accomplished, they’ve actually accomplished two per cent of what they’ve actually promised, and that’s not fake news that’s the real news.”
With just days left before the Oct. 24 election date, and around 25 per cent of people who intend to vote having already cast theirs’, the candidates forum gave who haven’t yet voted a chance to get more perspective on how the candidates intend to address the unique issues facing this riding.
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