A rapid-fire debate saw Nanaimo-Ladysmith candidates get the chance to talk to voters about a long list of topics this week.
Candidates from five parties represented in the House of Commons participated in Thursday’s forum, hosted by the Greater Nanaimo Chamber of Commerce at the Beban Park social centre.
Energy policy provided some of the liveliest debate, but there was also discussion of health care, immigration, housing, veterans’ affairs, the Phoenix pay system and more.
As has happened in previous debates, the Green Party and NDP candidates debated the LNG project in northern B.C.
“We’ve seen this plan from the B.C. NDP and Jagmeet Singh came out in support of it on Jan. 13 and he’s been waffling back and forth,” said Paul Manly, Green incumbent, as an NDP supporter shouted at him as she stormed out.
“The NDP are clear: no federal subsidies for fossil fuel industries,” said Bob Chamberlin, NDP candidate, in a later reply.
Manly and Chamberlin were the two candidates to speak against pipelines.
Liberal candidate Michelle Corfield said the existing 70-year-old Trans Mountain pipeline is more dangerous than a new pipe with new technology would be.
“I know moving bitumen by rail is the most dangerous way we can move bitumen in British Columbia. Our salmon streams are worth more than that,” she said.
Conservative John Hirst, too, said a pipeline represents “risk mitigation” when compared with rail.
“We’re talking about managing it in the safest way possible and that’s what I believe in,” he said.
Hirst asked if Manly believes there are no jobs at stake with the pipeline project, saying it’s tied to an industry and good-paying jobs that allow people to own homes and have a good quality of life.
“There are lots of good-paying jobs in the clean energy economy,” Manly replied. “Whether it’s geothermal, solar, wind, all of those projects will pay people who have skills to do those jobs. There’s no reason to be shipping bitumen in pipelines.”
Chamberlin said the NDP’s clean energy plans exceed Paris Agreement targets and meet timelines.
“We are not going to meet [emissions] targets by building a pipeline,” he said. “We have to invest in renewable energy now.”
Jennifer Clarke of the People’s Party of Canada said the Liberal government’s pipeline purchase was “ridiculous” but suggested the PPC would let free markets and consumers decide the pace of change on energy rather than forcing electrification now.
“We’re putting our interests into the hands of B.C. Hydro and into foreign entities that don’t have our best interests at heart or best interests in mind,” she said.
All candidates chimed in on veterans’ affairs. Manly said veterans need to be respected and their pensions taken care of, while Chamberlin said past cuts to veterans’ programs are unacceptable and noted that the NDP’s head-to-toe health care commitments would cover mental health care for PTSD and trauma.
Clarke said the PPC, with spending cuts elsewhere, will have the money to take care of veterans.
“They are not asking for more than we can give,” she said.
Corfield said Canada owes it to veterans to take care of them and said the Liberals are “working diligently” to support veterans, opening nine services offices that were closed by the Conservatives. She said veterans’ affairs are a federal responsibility but noted that the government needs to work with all the provincial governments that provide the services.
Hirst said he doesn’t agree with the previous Conservative government’s actions in regards to veterans but said his party now guarantees respect and service provision, promises to clear the backlog of benefit applications within two years, commits to a reliable and dependable pension system, and will provide transition services to discharged and retired members.
“I will always advocate for better service and better pensions for our veterans,” he said.
The candidates covered so many issues that they came to the topic of election signs, and Manly said although the Green Party signs are plastic, he re-uses them and plans to re-use the ‘re-elect’ signs four years from now.
Only Clarke offered a rebuttal.
“The Green Party is the least green, we are the most green, the People’s Party of Canada. We are the most environmentally friendly,” she said. “What has Paul actually done in half a year in being in office as the member of Parliament? I actually, personally, in the summer helped rescue thousands of salmon fry with my bare hands. I’ve been a tree planter, planting tens of thousands of trees. I’ve actually helped get rid of invasive plants by broom-busting. We are people of action.”
The other four Nanaimo-Ladysmith candidates were not invited to the forum. They include James Chumsa, Communist Party; Brian Marlatt, Progressive Canadian Party; Geoff Stoneman, independent; and Echo White, independent.
The federal election is Oct. 21, with advance voting Oct. 11-14.