Nelson meets the candidates at first All Candidates meeting
By Suzy Hamilton, The Nelson Daily
Health and related care and environmental issues topped the questions at the April 23 All Candidates meeting at the Prestige Hotel, where there was standing room only.
Economic and education issues came in a strong second.
But candidates Michelle Mungall (NDP), Greg Garbula (Liberal) and Sjeng Derkx (Green) heard other concerns, from going easy on marijuana users, to affordable housing for marginalized residents to problems with the parliamentary system.
Opening remarks set the scene.
While Garbula focused on his background as a resort manager and family man with many years of business experience, Derkx spoke of Green Party values and portrayed the party as different from the others. It does not accept corporate or union donations, is fiscally responsible and each candidate represents the constituents, not the party, he said.
Mungall recounted some of her achievements at the incumbent over the past four years, citing Anderson Gardens affordable housing in Nelson, 24/7 emergency care in Kaslo and keeping the Capitol Theatre running through gaming grants.
Moderated by the Nelson and District Chamber of Commerce director Tom Thomson, the meeting began with questions from the media panel, Glenn Hicks of The Bridge radio and Bob Hall, editor of the Nelson Star.
Thomson, naturally keen on business, asked the opening question: How did the candidates intend to help small business in the riding?
Candidates agreed with Derkx when he said, “Small business is the heart of the economy.” But while he highlighted supporting clean economies, Garbula gave support to core industries such as forestry, mining, agriculture and tourism, saying the small businesses will flourish if the larger ones are strong.
Mungall pointed out that skills training was an important part of small business. “It hit home how important education is…to invest in grades K-12,” she said.
Although there was a moderate amount of finger pointing from all candidates, each charging that the other party created the present deficit, Derkx claimed both parties were to blame.
But there were ‘lighter’ moments when it came to cannabis.
Asked if they supported Sensible BC, an initiative to instruct police not to spend time on arrests over simple possession of cannabis, Derkx replied, “I grew up in Holland (giggles and applause). People are not charged there and they draw a sharp line between cannabis and harder drugs. Having that split has helped.”
To which Garbula added, “Well I grew up in Crawford Bay…( louder chuckles and applause). “You can’t duck your head…. it makes sense to decriminalize. We can’t criminalize our kids over growing up in a place like this.”
Mungall said as with any province-wide initiative, “We need broad public debate.”
The Greens and the NDP remained firm in their opposition to the Jumbo Glacier Resort.
“That municipality has to go,” said Mungall, referring to the recent designation of Jumbo Glacier Resort as a resort municipality with appointed mayor and council. “We must uphold democratic principles.”
“The Green party has been fighting for Jumbo Wild for 20 years and we will fight to keep Jumbo Wild,” said Derkx.
Even Garbula said, “I don’t know if it’s the smartest thing to introduce another resort. I’d want to hear from you guys.”
On improving education grades K-12:
Garbula: “With jobs and industry, things will come around.”
Derkx: “Our kids need more exercise, only 15 percent of the kids get enough exercise. And we need to bring independent schools into the system.”
Mungall: “The NDP would put $100 million into the classrooms…better support for special needs, music and art for a well rounded education.”
On improving health care:
Garbula: “It’s a very complex problem, we have to work within the community.”
Derkx: “We’ve got a lot of bureaucracy and need more people on the ground and less bureaucracy.”
Mungall: “The NDP would spend $145 million on a rural acute care intiative.”
On their personal backgrounds:
Garbula characterized himself as a “problem solver.” He has worked in 1000 bed hotels with a staff of 200 and improved the economy of Crawford Bay with his work at Kokanee Springs Golf Resort.
Mungall, said politics “fuels me up every single day. If you don’t love talking to people and bringing issues forward, you won’t survive in this job.”
Derkx, a cabinet maker whose passion is “connecting us to the rest of the world” through
securing the rail trails from Nelson to Christina Lake, said politics shouldn’t be left to politicians. “Regular people should represent us.”
Interest appears lively in this election. Three more all candidates meetings remain.
The Nelson Daily is one of the sponsors of the All Candidates Health forum, Thursday, May 9 at the Hume Hotel from 7-9 pm. This is the community and health professional’s chance to ask the candidates specific questions about the future of health care in the Nelson Creston Riding.
All candidates meetings have also been scheduled for May 2 at the Nelson Municipal Library from 7-9 pm. It is a “reverse forum” which means the people will be talking to the candidates about their social issues and the candidates listen.
On May 8, School District 8 is hosting a forum on education at the District board room.