CFAX debate #2 features Saanich and North Islands candidates

The second in the CFAX debate series featured candidates from Saanich North and the Islands. The riding was a Liberal stronghold until 2013, when the NDP's Gary Holman took it over. But it was an extremely close race between the Liberals, NDP and Greens, with a tough battle expected again this time around.

Some of the most rousing debate resulted from the candidates asking each other questions.  Incumbent NDP candidate Gary Holman asked Liberal Stephen Roberts if Christy Clark was fit to govern given a long list of controversial issues and behaviours:

Holman: " She did collect $300,000 from the Liberal party for which she is chief fundraiser, is she going to give that money back?"
Roberts: " She took it from the party Gary, for work she does for the party. Lots of people have part time jobs."
Holman: " Is she going to apologize to John Horgan in person rather than  in a voice mail for accusing him of a criminal act?"
Roberts: " I believe the premier attempted to call John Horgan on more than one occasion to apologize in person, but was unable to reach him."

Holman also said Clark has wasted millions fighting a long and losing battle against BC teachers, and has yet to fulfill her promise of an LNG industry and the associated jobs. Roberts says LNG is coming, and Clark has made the BC economy the envy of other provinces.

Meantime Holman was targeted by Green candidate Adam Olsen who said while the Liberals embrace corporate cash, the BC NDP was not adverse to accepting a large union donation from the U.S.

" The BC NDP accepted a single donation from the United Steelworkers based in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania for $250-thousand last year, so who is it that you and the NDP truly represent?"

Holman answered the NDP isn't going to fight an election on an uneven playing field:

" We are not going to take a banana to a knife fight Adam. On the eve of an election we are not going to give up an opportunity to fund advertising to fund a strong campaign. We have an ambition to form government in this province, not just to elect a few more candidates. So we're not going to give up. We are going to play by the rules and win this election and changes the rules." 

Olsen also targeted Holman on the NDP voting record, saying they often vote with the Liberals on issues the NDP has argued against, such as the LNG income tax act. Holman says his party supports LNG if it's responsibly done.

Independent candidate Jordan Templeman asked the Liberal's Roberts about corporate donations to the party, saying it's not ethical to let the average voter's voice be "drowned out" by those who support the party financially.

Roberts says the Liberals post all donations within 10 days on their website:

" That's clear and transparent, voters are able to look at that. They can decide if they think there's been any undue influence for themselves. But we've also proposed that we set up an independent legislative commission. An independent commission of the legislature will look at best practices in other jurisdictions an come up with something that works for British Columbians."

Roberts said he believes there is a case for reform, and he favours change. Templeman countered why wait?

" And I don't see this as something we need to wait around to do by creating committees and taking time to do this.  And it's not an issue of transparency because it doesn't matter if I know a corporation, or what have you, has donated to you, they still have." 

Roberts argues the solution lies with all parties, which is why a bi-partisan commission is being struck.

But Michael Prince, UVic political scientist and Lansdowne Professor of Social Policy, says the Liberals are out of sync with public opinion on the matter.  Prince acted as CFAX debate  analyst.  He says many British Columbians don't think it should be left in the parties hands at all. He says it should be a truly independent commission of ordinary citizens or experts in the area.  He notes the practices are out there and we already know what the provinces and the federal government have done.

And the issue of whether BC should be selling off residential health care beds to private for-profit interests also came up.

NDP incumbent Gary Holman says we should be worried about the trend to profit-making in our health care system, especially with the Seniors' Advocate finding 90% of residential care homes weren't meeting minimum standards of care, and the Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives finding there's a higher level of care in non-profit companies.

"Look, the reality is we do have for-profit companies in British Columbia. We are going to be focusing on working with non-profits, forming partnerships to build non-profit public health care in British Columbia. And we'll ensure strict licensing and regulation of the for-profit institutions. "

Liberal Stephen Roberts says private care has an important role to play in providing services for a growing seniors population:

" And the Province, frankly, with an aging population is not going to be able to build and operate every single facility that seniors might wan t to move into. Seniors have worked their entire lives building this province, and we need to look after them and protect them. But private care has a very important part to play in this with  provincial government oversight."

Green candidate Adam Olsen wants the government to have an open discussion on how services are delivered, but supports public health care, not private.  Independent Jordan Templeman sees more negatives than positives with private health care.


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