Candidates in Cowichan-Malahat-Langford were kept on their toes answering a wide variety of questions at the federal candidates forum on Oct. 9
About 600 people filed into the Cowichan Performing Arts Centre to take part in the forum, with many asking questions of the four main candidates in the riding in the federal election, which will be held on Oct. 21.
NDP incumbent Alistair MacGregor, the Conservative Party’s Alana DeLong, the Liberal’s Blair Herbert and the Green’s Lydia Hwitsum had little time to relax in the fast-paced forum and had to think and talk quickly in the one-minute time frame each was given to answer questions.
The People’s Party of Canada’s Rhonda Chen and the Christian Heritage Party’s Robin Morton Stanbridge were not invited to attend the forum, sponsored by the Duncan Cowichan Chamber of Commerce, Cowichan Valley Citizen, Island Savings and Amber Education Services.
The questions, which came from the floor and from the event’s organizers, covered everything from marijuana, affordable housing and proportional representation to taxation, small businesses and the environment.
The entire unedited two-and-a-half-hour forum can be viewed at the Chamber of Commerce’s YouTube site.
A question from one man asking what each candidate would do to stop the “tragedy” of abortion drew a large chorus of boos from the audience.
DeLong, whose party leader Andrew Scheer has said that he personally opposes abortion, said the Conservative Party has voted to “not touch” the issue, to the applause of many in the audience.
MacGregor, Herbert and Hwitsum all said they believe in a woman’s right to choose and they wouldn’t interfere with that.
Herbert noted the irony in that it was a man who posed the question.
“Women have the right to decide what to do with their own bodies; end of story,” he said.
One woman asked what the candidates would do to deal with child poverty, and noted that 22 per cent of the Valley’s children live in poverty.
Hwitsum answered that the Greens would invest in food security, affordable housing and child care, while Herbert touted that the Liberals’ policies have allowed thousands to rise above poverty over the last four years.
DeLong said the number-one goal of the Conservatives is to bring down the cost of living, and the Tories would help accomplish this by such strategies as lowering personal taxes and by taking GST off heating bills.
MacGregor said that the other parties’ plans to tinker with taxes to deal with child poverty would not be effective.
“Those in poverty don’t pay much in taxes anyway,” he said.
“We have to start tackling issues like the fact that there is not enough affordable housing available. Too many families are left making too many hard choices.”
The environment, considered by many to be a major topic in the country due to threats of global warming, was also discussed by the candidates.
Herbert said the Liberals are pleased with the party’s environmental plan so far, and over the next four years, the hope is that 30 per cent of all new vehicles bought in Canada will be electric.
DeLong said global warming is a problem in Canada, but countries like China and India, which have far higher green-house gas emissions, are more responsible for the problem.
“We need to address the problem where it is,” she said.
MacGregor said he finds it hard to believe that with all the science pointing to the problems of global warming that many of Canadian’s pension funds continue to invest in the fossil-fuel industry.
“The pension funds should not be allowed to invest in these industries, and we’re pursuing that and I hope to leave this as a legacy for my children and grandchildren,” he said.
Hwitsum said the Canada Environmental Assessment Act should be amended to put priority on the protection of the country’s ecosystems.
“We owe it to future generations,” she said.