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South Okanagan-West Kootenay candidates tested by student body

Student Vote is Oct. 18
Sheri Regnier/Trail Times

This federal election - like every federal election that has come before it - is being touted as “the most important election of our time.”

So an interesting aspect of political messaging and party campaigns is, and has always been, what the up-and-coming voters are talking and thinking about, in terms of what matters most to them.

Watch: Grand Forks forum

Read more: Trail Times election stories

This was very evident at the All Candidates Forum in the Trail high school on Wednesday wherein all six political hopefuls from the South Okanagan-West Kootenay riding were asked insightful questions from the student body.

Moderators Caleb Clement and Eben Sirges presented the candidates to their classmates and roughly 75 attendees from the general public. Each candidate was given three minutes to introduce themselves, then the moderators got right down to business by calling six students up to the microphone to ask their questions. After the question was asked, each candidate was given a minute to reply however, due to time restraints of the one-hour event, there wasn’t opportunity for debate between the politicians.

The content of questions targeted much talked about issues like the lack of affordable housing, changing the electoral system to Proportional Representation, reconciliation with Indigenous people, and whether or not they supported banning single use plastic across Canada.

But the one question that drew the loudest response, in terms of applause, was the behemoth known as climate change.

“What is one way your party plans to address climate change that is different, or better, than the other parties?” the student asked.

Independent candidate Carolina Hopkins talked about nature-based solutions, such as looking at forest and agricultural practices as well as urban planning.

Green Party candidate Tara Howse pointed to her party platform which she said is the only plan that meets the targets of the Paris Climate Agreement.

Conservative candidate Helena Konanz gave an example of how her party’s plan of “technology not taxes” differs from the others by discussing how a Penticton company was hired to replace fuel-driven energy with clean energy (hydro-electric and geothermal) at a mining site in Indonesia, thereby cutting carbon emissions.

People’s Party candidate Sean Taylor talked about a research project called “ITER,” (fusion) and how solar farms and wind mills are not the answer to replacing fossil fuels.

Incumbent Richard Cannings, NDP candidate, said his party’s plan is to create a “climate bank” and that Paris targets will be met using science-based targets put into law.

Connie Denesiuk, representing the Liberals, said her party is the only one that has a transition plan in place.

The sixth and final question, asked in both French and English, dealt with how each candidate would support youth in their riding. Time was running short, so the replies were tied into closing remarks.

Overall, the responses touched on employment training and jobs, better mental health services for youth, and inclusion for all.

Now the question becomes what the students gained from the forum, and if it will reflect in the Student Vote on Oct. 18.

In the meantime, moderator Eben Sirges says he has a lot to think about.

“I found this was a really great experience, to get to know, personally, some of the candidates we have for election possibilities,” he told the Trail Times after the forum. “I found it interesting to engage the students’ interests as a whole body into these different (candidates) and what they think of each party,” he said.

“We have a lot of new candidates this year … so it was good to meet them and hear firsthand what they have to say about some of the subjects that are important to us,” Sirges shared.

“Now I have more to think about and a little bit more research to do.”

The country’s 43rd federal election will take place on Monday, Oct. 21.

Advance voting opportunities in Trail are October 11, 12, 13 and 14 at the Trail Memorial Centre. Hours on the weekdays are from 9 a.m. to 9 p.m., on Saturday from 9 a.m. to 6 p.m., then noon to 4 p.m. on Sunday.

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Sheri Regnier

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