Each party representative started off their campaign night with a three minute introductory speech. This was followed by a lengthy question period.
Stephen Hill was the victim of the highest level of frustration by his informed audience. Questioner after questioner fired at him about medical cutbacks, crime, education, abortion, the environment, the social system and all the failings of the present federal Conservative government. “Stephen needs to answer for Stephen,” said Atamanenko during an answer period referring to Prime Minister Stephen Harper. Hill has a degree in political science and a degree in business administration and he often referred to his business expertise throughout the forum.
Shan Lavell came as the Liberal representative. Her voice was from that of someone who has spent many years from the inside looking out at the medical and social system in Canada. “I am a registered nurse,” said Lavell. “I grew up in the Okanagan and am now a manager in Interior Health. “I have joined this battle because we need change. We need to make our medical system a priority in this country again.” Lavell also has a Master’s in Counseling Psychology and feels she has a unique view of many of the problems facing low income families and the social system in its presently “dysfunctional form. Social workers are spread thin on a shoe string budget trying to solve deep problems with little funding and little government support.”
Alex Atamanenko has been the Member of Parliament for the B.C. Southern Interior since 2006. He is the Federal NDP Agriculture, Agri-food and Rural Affairs Critic He has worked as an interpreter for the prime minister during a tour of Russia in 1989 and is multi-lingual. Atamanenko is a former teacher and has brought his life experience to the table. Atamanenko spoke in a clear calm voice about change, about the Canadian people, and about parliament’s lack of confidence in their present government. “I met a woman today who has only $1300 to live on. She is a young mom with four kids. $1300 is not enough for that family and many others in this country. More and more Canadians are being forced to use food banks. This is wrong. Fifty-six recommendations were made by a panel to relieve the affordable housing crisis in this country and none of the recommendations were adopted by our present government. Meanwhile 5.9 billion in tax cuts have been made by the Conservatives to corporations.
Lavell sided with Atamanenko on the Conservatives main focus. “The Conservatives are all about business, yet they haven’t been able to balance a budget. We need a strategic investment in the people of Canada. Throwing money at banks and oil companies is not working. Teachers, nurses and the working people need a voice in this country. Right now all our government workers are working under gag orders. This is not an acceptable way to run a country. We need change, the people deserve a better Canada.”
Hill retorted to his critics with the high unemployment rate across the riding. “This election is not about me it’s about you. I have an economic plan, a fresh water plan…I make promises and I deliver results.”
One absentee participant of the forum wanted to know about the boundaries for the present riding. Atamanenko said they were redistributed in 2000.
“In Toronto there are 60 ridings. Here we have 22 communities to represent,” stated Lavell. “It is a large riding to cover.
Hill said, “there are 74,000 voters in our riding and 35,000 didn’t vote in the last election.”
Hill continued with his campaign with “what is good for the country is good for the local people.”
“Under the Conservatives, we have lost a lot of big companies and a lot of high paying jobs,” stated Atamanenko. “There are unlimited tax cuts to corporations and the Conservatives are selling our natural resources. Our raw logs are leaving Canadian soil in unlimited quantities…that is not good for our country.”
Long gun registry continued to be a bone of contention. Stephen Hill called it a waste. Lavell sees a need for simplification, but supports the intent. Atamanenko views it as a good thing if it helps stop even a few deaths.
Questions on child poverty brought Lavell to state “B.C. has the highest child poverty rate in the country and there is a need for a financial infusion into the high risk youth to help them before it is too late. We need early learning strategies.”
Hill wants tougher laws for criminals and more jails.
Atamanenko wants to invest in Canadians. “We can still give tax cuts to companies if necessary, but with restrictions. We will give you a break, but in return we want this from you. Tax cuts need to come with guarantees. For every dollar we give out in corporate tax cuts we get forty cents back for every dollar we give the Canadian people or we invest in environmental initiatives we get a dollar forty back. The numbers don’t lie.”
Atamanenko sees the political lines as drawn between urban and rural. “A softwood sell-out is not something Canadians need . We need to protect our resources. We should not be allowing Washington to dump their apples into Canada at the expense of our own orchardists who are plowing under their orchards to grow grapes. This is wrong.”
Lavell concluded her forum. “The federal Liberal party has divorced itself from the provincial Liberal party. We are looking for green change for Canada. We want to protect our environment. I am a nurse, councillor and a grandmother…that is my reason for doing this. I will advocate for a better Canada.”
Hill referred to his business success in Midway as an example of his getting things done. He praised his business sense for the reopening of the Midway Mill and other local successes.
Atamanenko said, “We do represent out leader. There has been a lack of funding for rural B.C. and Canadian farmers don’t have food strategy. Americans protect their industry. Our leaders don’t. Canadians have E.I and Medicare because of my party. We care about real Canadians.”