The federal election is months away, but candidates in the South Okanagan-West Kootenay riding are already bickering.
Earlier this week, Conservative candidate Helena Konanz issued a challenge to the other candidates in the riding to a “comprehensive set of debates” that would span the entire riding leading up to the election in October.
“We should have a full slate of debates that cover the entire riding and I am committed to attending every single one. We shall see if Justin Trudeau’s candidate or our NDP opponent agree with me,” said Konanz in a news release.
Konanz proposed the creation of a committee that includes one representative from each campaign who can work with debate organizers from community-based groups to schedule a series of debates throughout the riding.
“My campaign will be reaching out to all the other campaigns to make this a reality. I firmly believe that democracy should be accessible to all citizens. Time will tell if my opponents feel the same way,” said Konanz.
Liberal candidate Connie Denesiuk was the first to issue a response.
“It strikes me as ironic that the Conservative candidate has issued a democratic challenge that in its essence robs our community organizations, schools and issue-based groups of their voices and important role in shaping the conversation in this election,” said Denesiuk.
Denesiuk added that she already expects there will be close to two dozen organized debates without Konanz trying to “hijack the process.”
“I’m glad to hear the Conservatives plan to participate this time. They skipped most of them in 2015,” she said.
Tara Howse, the Green party candidate, said she is up to the challenge, however, took some issue with the wording Konanz chose to use.
“I am not particularly fond of the language or how it was worded, but that is coming from my community organizer background. I would have gone about it differently, but ultimately the end goal is the same that we want to ensure we are all heard across the riding,” said Howse.
She added that she hopes the intention is not the “hijack” what community groups are planning and appreciates a more environmentally sensitive schedule that would see a more co-ordinated travel schedule.
Incumbent Richard Cannings, who represents the NDP party, also noted that he is happy to hear a Conservative candidate is planning to attend all the forums this time around.
“I think in 2015 we had 20 forums that everyone was invited to. I went to all 20 and the Conservative candidate went to 10, as I recall. I am just happy to see the Conservatives have decided they are going to attend and we won’t have an empty chair beside us,” said Cannings in response to Konanz’ challenge.
Cannings said, for the most part, having community organizations and chambers of commerce’s have worked out well in the past and he doesn’t believe a special committee needs to be set up as Konanz suggested. He also said he did not appreciate some of the comments from the Conservatives and Konanz.
“I’ve been a little disappointed with some of the wording of the Conservative messages on Facebook and things like that, but that’s politics what can I say? I try to stay positive. If I don’t think their policies are good, then I will talk about policies. I know both Connie and Helena and we get along well, so I will keep personal attacks out of it for sure. I try to be fair on my comments on policy, that is the way I work anyways,” said Cannings.
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