Around 200 locals were at Thompson Rivers University Tuesday night (Oct. 8 ) to hear from the Kamloops-Thompson-Cariboo candidates about why they should be sent to Ottawa.
Peter Kerek of the Communist Party, Terry Lake of the Liberal Party, Kira Cheeseborough of the Animal Protection Party, Cathy McLeod of the Conservative Party, Cynthia Egli of the NDP, Iain Currie of the Green Party and Ken Finlayson of the People's Party of Canada are all vying for the position McLeod currently holds.
The all-candidates forum, hosted by Kamloops This Week, Radio NL and the Kamloops Chamber of Commerce, was formatted with an opening statement from each candidate, followed by questions from the crowd. While the early part of the debate saw a few people use their time at the microphone to make a political statement, more general questions followed later on.
Questions to the seven candidates touched on a variety of issues, including veterans affairs, pensions and taxes, but climate change (an issue that's been at the forefront of this campaign) garnered the most discussion.
Finlayson denied man-made climate change is a thing; the other six candidates discussed the matter repeatedly. Lake and Currie traded talking points a couple of times, with Currie questioning if the Liberal Party plan goes far enough, and Lake suggesting the Greens would ruin the economy with their approach.
"I wish, Iain, that your plan would get us there," Lake said during a question on how fast things need to change, taking issue with Green Party's infrastructure plans that he said would infringe on provincial and First Nations rights. "But it's not feasible."
"I'll respond to Terry, just because I don't take the Conservatives' climate plan seriously," Currie said. "The rich irony is the opposition in B.C. to the pipeline was overridden by the federal government."
McLeod explained the Conservative climate action plan doesn't involve the current carbon taxes and instead would look to technology investment and private industry.
Another issue where differences were apparent was student tuition. Currie called higher education a right and said the Greens would abolish tuition, while Egli said a grant system should be created. McLeod said the Conservative Party would enhance the RESP (registered education savings plan) system, while Lake argued the Liberals have started improvements on the loan system with lower interest rates, extended grace periods and more.
While McLeod is the incumbent, it was Lake who spent more time on the defence, as people asked him questions about Indigenous reconciliation, the Trans Mountain pipeline and proportional representation. At one point, the crowd booed when he said there was no undue pressure put on Attorney General Jody Wilson-Raybould during the SNC-Lavalin scandal.
"Ninety-two per cent of Trudeau's pledges have been met or have work done on them," he said.
The idea of a performing arts centre in Kamloops was also talked about, with Lake saying he's a big supporter of such a facility and would advocate for federal dollars. McLeod countered, citing the referendum held a couple of years ago, when Kamloops rejected a PAC.
"I take my marching orders from the community," she said.
While many of the questions were focused on Lake and McLeod, and to a lesser extent Currie and Egli, the other three candidates were given a few opportunities to win over voters. Kerek, in particular, focused on workers' rights, and pointed to current policies that came from communist ideas (like universal health care and pensions). He used the mill closure in Vavenby as a talking point.
"They should have a right," he said. "When a factory is about to close, workers should have the right to take over the factory."
Of those in attendance, many appeared to already support a party, wearing pins or T-shirts with logos on them. Heckling was kept to a minimum (though former NDP candidate Dock Currie and Finlayson got into a yelling match at one point about climate scientists).
Some undecided voters did turn up.
Braydon Slack and Breanne McAmmond, a pair of students in their early 20s, say the debate helped them decide.
"Yeah, I think it solidified it for both of us, who we're going to vote for," Slack said. "They did well. They all seemed to know what they were talking about in terms of their parties."
"I can't say there was anything surprising about it," McAmmond said, adding she hopes it doesn't become another election where people vote based on who they don't want. "I think it's important for everyone to vote for who they actually want to vote for and not be swayed one way or another by what the outcome could be."
Wendy Nielsen said her vote is still out there for the candidates to earn.
"My conundrum is, I listened to the debate last night on TV and the one federal leader that came through very strongly was Mr. (Jagmeet) Singh, but I have trouble voting NDP," she said. "And when I listened to the local candidates, they don't match up to the federal leaders."
While she agrees climate change is an important issue, she's frustrated by the lack of discussion on other issues she's concerned about, like poverty, taxes and pensions. And while plenty of promises are being made on where money is going to be spent, she's concerned about where it'll come from.
"So many of these parties have all these promises that sound so wonderful, but they don't seem to have any plan as to where the money is going to come from to pay for them," Nielson told KamloopsMatters.
Another frustration she has is the negativity in elections.
"When I was listening to the debate last night, one particular leader spent a lot of his time slamming the other guys and not offering anything positive — I couldn't vote for that," she said. "While I realize it's part of the game to put the other guy down, I don't like that, so any of the candidates who are saying more of what they are going to do and what their party is going to do, that's the one I'll look at."