Mike Davies/Campbell River Mirror The room was definitely at capacity (the empty chairs were vacated by people lined up at the microphones to ask questions) at the first All Candidates Meeting of the federal election season

ELECTION 2015: Forum gives seniors close look at federal candidates

North Island-Powell River: Those in attendance were obviously passionate about a broad range of topics

All four candidates who hope to represent the riding of North Island–Powell River in parliament after the upcoming federal election were on hand to field questions from the elders of our region Tuesday afternoon at the first of the election season’s all-candidates meetings.

The Seniors’ Centre in Campbell River Common was abuzz with enthusiasm before the event got under way, and that energy was sustained throughout the meeting.

Those in attendance were obviously passionate about a broad range of topics, but they offered their questions to the panel with respect, listened appreciatively and thanked them for their responses with warm applause, whether they liked the answers they received or not.

The candidates, too, were civil toward each other, and each acknowledged the good things said by the others while they proceeded in addressing the crowd.

As is typical for these meetings, they began the forum by introducing themselves, what they stand for and why they deserve your vote.

“It’s an honour to be here with all of you,” began Brenda Sayers of the Green Party of Canada.

She highlighted her business history – having owned a successful service station in the Lower Mainland for 15 years and having spent time on the BC Transit Board of Directors – and her history in administration as a councillor for her band and as a financial administrator.

She also highlighted her involvement with the Canada-China Foreign Investment Promotion Agreement (FIPA).

“I did this on my own time as a service of Canada, to serve the people of Canada, for two and a half years,” she said.

She also spoke about taking care of her aging parents and how it helped her understand the concerns seniors within our society – an understanding she will bring to the position if elected in October.

Rachel Blaney of the NDP introduced herself as a long-time Campbell Riverite, having lived here for 17 years now, and expressed her enthusiasm at the possibility of going to Ottawa to represent the community she loves and in which she has raised her family.

As the executive director of the Immigrant Welcome Centre, Blaney said she has worked all over the region, across various sectors, to meet the needs of the community.

She also highlighted her education – she holds a degree in First Nations Studies and a business administration certificate.

“I really love to learn, and I love to share what I’ve learned,” she said.

One of the main reasons Blaney is running, she said, is her passion for healthcare.

“I’m really proud, as a Canadian, to be able to stand up and say we have a healthcare system that supports people,” she said. “Now, with the provinces having to cover 80 per cent and we’re going to see a bigger decrease in federal transfers, I know a lot of people have talked to me about their concerns about what the future is going to look like in Canada,” she said, and she hears those concerns and will work to address them if elected.

Conservative candidate Laura Smith highlighted her time in the forestry sector in the region and expressed her pride in having been a long-time volunteer member of Search and Rescue on the mid-north-Island.

In 2008, she said, current sitting Conservative MP John Duncan “asked me to come work for him in Ottawa, and having had a lifelong interest in politics and the federal government, that was just too good an opportunity to pass up.”

She said she “learned so much about how MPs can be effective advocates for their communities as well as effective legislators,” in her role on Duncan’s staff, “and how things get done – how the process works in that part of the world.”

“Canada is a great country, and it’s great because generations of Canadians have made it so,” Smith said, adding that the policies of the Conservative Party of Canada are consistent with the values held by those generations of Canadians – “that we work hard and expect to enjoy the fruits of our labours, that we take responsibility for the people around us, and that we consider the impact of our actions on future generations.”

Peter Schwarzhoff, the Liberal candidate, opened by sharing his background with Environment Canada.

“It’s actually my time with Environment Canada that pushed me into politics,” he said, “because some choices were made there that I don’t understand and I don’t think were of benefit to the country. I am, in fact, one of those gagged scientists forbidden by Ottawa to speak to the media.”

He touched on his time in the Canadian Armed Forces, as a Captain in the Air Force, and how that time in his life has informed his political activism in support of our veterans.

“When I graduated in 1971, the world was my oyster,” Schwarzhoff said. “Really, anything I wanted to do was open to me, and I took advantage of it. And I would wish that for my children.

“They’re 25 and 27 now and they do not have that opportunity.”

He said he’s old enough to be nostalgic about Canada’s place in the world and his optimism that we could get back to that place under better leadership.

“We used to feel that Canada was in a good place,” he said. “Not there, yet, but in a good place and heading for an even better one. And I feel we have lost that … I have a vision that we once shared as a nation and I just want a chance to get our Canada back.”

The candidates went on to answer questions on various aspects of Canadian life – particularly in how they relate to the seniors within our society – from income splitting, to a national health strategy, to pension reform, to bill C-51 and privacy rights.

 

Watch for upcoming stories in the Mirror addressing how each candidate feels about these topics and others, as we work our way towards the federal election on Oct. 19.

 

QUESTIONS?…If you have a question you would like the candidates to address at the upcoming All Candidates Meeting, submit them to editor@campbellrivermirror.com.

A selection of the questions will be put before the candidates at the forum on Thursday Oct. 8 from 5:30 to 7:30 p.m. at the Tidemark Theatre and is sponsored by the Campbell River Mirror, the Tidemark Theatre and the Chamber of Commerce.