Cariboo Prince George federal candidates squared off in a debate held Thursday in Williams Lake. From left to right Richard Jaques (Green Party)

Cariboo Prince George federal candidates squared off in a debate held Thursday in Williams Lake. From left to right Richard Jaques (Green Party)

Healthy political discussion at all-candidates forum

Candidates in the Cariboo Prince George riding squared off in a dynamic all-candidates debate at Thompson Rivers University Thursday.

Five of the six candidates in the Cariboo Prince George riding squared off at a standing-room only all-candidates debate at Thompson Rivers University Thursday night.

Missing was Conservative candidate Todd Doherty whose campaign office told the Tribune earlier in the week he would not be attending.

During the evening many people said they were disappointed Doherty chose not to participate.

“It is really unfortunate that the Conservative candidate wasn’t there,” said Peter Smith of the Williams Lake Chapter of the Council of Canadians who helped organize the evening. “The depth of answers, the quality of the discussion and the respectfulness shown by all the candidates was terrific.”

About 125 people attended the forum.

Questions from the floor came without hesitation and ranged from climate change, proportional representation and senate reform, to seniors care, education and health for First Nations, how to engage youth to vote and the long gun registry, and more.

Each candidate had an opportunity to answer the questions, and often moderator Dr. Ray Sanders of TRU offered them a chance to make a rebuttal.

When Mary Forbes asked if any of the candidates would be brave enough to withdraw from the ballot if there was one leading candidate that would stop Stephen Harper and the Conservatives “in their tracks,” her question received the largest applause from the audience.

Responding Independent candidate Sheldon Clare said it is wrong-headed for people to be voting against something they want to keep out.

“If we keep voting the same way we always have we’re always going to get the same results, that’s the problem,” Clare said, adding he was the best choice if people want to bring change to the region.

All five candidates confirmed they would not withdraw from the race.

The poverty of Canada’s seniors is a focus of the NDP, said candidate Trent Derrick when senior Ollie Martens asked what the government can do for her demographic.

“We want to increase the transfer payments to medicare… and bring all provinces to a level playing field,” Derrick said. “We also want to invest in care-aids to help seniors stay at home longer.”

Green Party candidate Richard Jaques said his party is pushing to get rid of university tuition.

He also said the Green Party would cut the Prime Minister’s budget by 50 per cent or $5 million to have money for other programs.

Probably the most controversial statement of the night came from 23-year-old Christian Heritage Party candidate Adam De Kroon responding to a question posed by Tim Tymchuk about the long gun registry.

De Kroon assured Tymchuk he would oppose any gun legislation and would support moving in a direction for even more gun freedoms, including perhaps even concealed carry of handguns.

In her closing remarks, Liberal candidate Tracy Calogheros told the audience there is a lot of cohesiveness at the candidates’ table.

“One of the things we agree with is that you have a big decision to make as to who is going to represent you in Ottawa that you’re going to trust to build consensus and take that forward,” Calogheros said. “We can’t blame Ottawa for not listening to us if we don’t send someone there to tell them what we think.”

A second forum is slated for Thursday, Oct. 15 at the Pioneer Complex at 6:30 p.m. It is free to the public and anyone with questions is encouraged to drop them off at the Chamber of Commerce office at the Tourism Discovery Centre or e-mail them to visitors@telus.net.