The labour shortage, affordability, climate, reconciliation, childcare, housing, agriculture and small business were all touched on by North Okanagan-Shuswap candidates in the first forum featuring all five.
The Greater Vernon Chamber of Commerce and BC Fruit Growers Association hosted the online federal all-candidates event Wednesday, Sept. 8.
More than 100 residents logged in to view the all-candidates forum via Zoom, and streamed on YouTube.
Retaining and attracting employees was one of the first subjects raised, as many businesses are struggling with a major labour shortage.
“What we need is a government that stands up and asks Canadians to go back to work,” People’s Party of Canada candidate Kyle Delfing said. “We need to get back to work.”
Liberal candidate Shelley Desautels pointed out that the Canada Emergency Response Benefit (CERB) has been gone since 2020, but many people are still collecting the Canada Recovery Benefit, which is much like EI (Employment Insurance). But there is more to be done than just eliminating these benefits, including addressing the housing shortage, mental health issues and child care.
“We have a much greater picture to look at,” Desautels said. “People need to be supported and not just go back to work.”
Green candidate Andrea Gunner agreed that more needs to be done to address housing and mental health as well as the high cost of post-secondary education. She also highlighted the importance of groups like Community Futures in helping people ease into employment.
“If they have help getting their feet on the first rung, they will find success,” Gunner said.
NDP candidate Ron Johnston said a higher minimum wage and increased skills opportunities are needed to boost the workforce, and his government wants to create better jobs.
“We have a plan to create over one million additional jobs,” Johnston said.
Conservative and incumbent MLA Mel Arnold said his government aims to get one million Canadians back on the job.
“We will gradually scale back the CRB program to get people back to work. But we need to create incentives for businesses to rehire,” Arnold said, suggesting 25-50 per cent tax credits.
The debate continued into varying subjects while the candidates agreed on the need to do more to address truth and reconciliation efforts, some attacking each other for lack of action in recent years.
Candidates wrapped up the forum with closing remarks, each citing party plans and websites where voters can access more information before election day.
“Make sure you do go use your voice Sept. 20 at the polls,” Chamber general manager and forum moderator Dan Proulx said.