The four candidates vying to represent the Kootenay West riding faced a wide array of questions during last night’s all-candidates forum at the Cominco Gym in Trail.
A crowd of about 60 people listened to the candidates, heard questions from a media panel then posed their own in an effort to determine who should get their support in the May 14 provincial election.
While many of the questions were tailored for the provincial responses from the two main party candidates, the NDP and BC Liberals, on issues such as ferries and health care, the independents also offered their views from an entirely different perspective, when it came to genetically modified foods, education, the right to recall or the rights of municipalities.
Incumbent MLA Katrine Conroy of the NDP continued her party’s mantra of change for the better while detailing the NDP’s spending commitments.
BC Liberal candidate Jim Postnikoff reminded voters the power that comes with electing a representative that is part of the ruling government. He also repeated his party’s platform of building the economy to bring jobs to the province.
The two independent candidates offered contrasting visions.
Joseph Hughes provided a passionate pitch reminding voters, “what party politics has done for you.”
His vision of an independent representative that stands for the voters and not a party resonated with many in the audience.
Glen Byle, who was often short on his answers, presented his Technology Enabled true Democracy (TED), which gives voters a voice on every issue through websites. It allows each voter to determine what agenda he will present to the legislature.
The media panel posed questions on taxation, municipalities and poverty and food banks relative to the Greater Trail area.
The open questions gave better insight into the candidates.
Conroy’s experience was on display as she fielded all questions and provided in-depth knowledge of the workings of the government. Her role as the NDP critic for seniors affairs allowed her to answer questions on health care and senior care in the same breath. She advocated better funding for home support in an effort to keep seniors in their home.
Postnikoff, who seemed more comfortable talking about the economy and jobs, often reading from the Liberals party platform and left questions on seniors with cryptic answers such as a new program was taking over the United Way to help deal with poverty and seniors without providing more details.
One topic that hit close to home came from School District 20 trustee Darrell Ganzert who questioned the downloading of costs on school districts by the provincial government.
Again the two main parties offered different takes.
Postnikoff repeated the Liberals simple formula of economy plus jobs equals more funding. He said teh Liberals have pitched a 10-year deal to the B.C. Teachers Federation in order to get spending under control.
Conroy, on the other hand, said increasing staff levels is a priority to improving education for each student especially when it comes to teacher assistants and librarians.
The affordable housing topic brought another unclear response from Postnikoff who alluded to a major overhaul on the horizon without any details.
Conroy was more specific explaining the NDP has pledged 1,500 units of housing per year for four years.
Hughes said each community has different problems and requires different solutions that need direct action from the riding’s representative.
Byle once again said he would rely on his system to gauge what the voters want in the riding.
The one question that generated a consensus from all the candidates was the health care system. Conroy and Postnikoff were in unison in their concerns of Interior Health’s bloated administration.
Postnikoff read off a list of his party’s funding plans and accomplishments while Conroy repeated the NDP’s commitment to rural health care, home support, and mental issues.
It was only fitting one of the final questions of the night from the floor asked candidates where the money would come to fulfill all the promises.
Byle offered a plan to tax according to services, while Hughes said the solutions from the Kootenay West riding must be developed in the region and not dependent on what is fed from Victoria.
Conroy said the NDP’s platform of taxing will be aimed at corporations like banks, people making over $150,000 per year and heavy polluters.
“We will not increase the deficit,” she said, adding the NDP is only promising what it can afford.
Postnikoff read from the party platform and emphasized the party’s jobs plan leading to the goal of a debt-free B.C.
The party is promising a freeze on taxes and carbon taxes, the potential windfall from the oil and gas industry for a Prosperity Fund and, of course, jobs.
Another forum is on tap tonight in Castlegar with the final local forum set for Wednesday in Rossland at the Miner’s Hall at 7 p.m.