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Reverse all-candidates forum puts power — and podium — back in the hands of the people

Nearly 100 people showed up at the Nelson United Church to lend their voice to the campaign and give six of the seven candidates in the Kootenay-Columbia riding their views on what the issues were in the current election. — Photo: Timothy Schafer

Call it a reversal of fortune.

Politicians had to sit and listen to voters on Wednesday night in the first all-candidates gathering in Nelson for the latest edition of the federal election campaign trail.

Nearly 100 people showed up at the Nelson United Church to lend their voice to the campaign and give shape to the issues by giving six of the seven candidates in the Kootenay-Columbia riding a piece of their minds on what the solutions were to those topics.

Two weeks into the election — called Sept. 11 when General Julie Payette dissolved the 42nd Parliament on the advice of Prime Minister Justin Trudeau — the candidates were given a peek at what mattered to Nelsonites through the forum.

Organized by Nelson at its Best, the reverse forum consisted of five topics, including poverty and inequality, climate crisis, economic development and technological disruption, indigenous people and strengthening healthcare and the healthcare crisis in Canada.

The assemblage was divided into three groups based on three of the topics with free discussion — while the candidates moved from group to group to listen and take notes — with everyone coming together at the end to discuss the final two topics.

“The idea is to have the conversation … for the candidates to sit back and listen to others,” said the evening’s host Andrea Wilkey at the outset of the forum.

When the discussion began there was no shortage of speakers, people willing to share their views and theories with the candidates and the others gathered about how the country — and Nelson — could be better served by government.

After three rounds and 90 minutes of discussion, several ideas came clear.

“What I am hearing here is we have to keep it local,” said one man well into the discussion. “We need to work to keep jobs here … and ‘incent-i-vise’ to do that.”

The evening was also informative for the candidates, said Green Party candidate Abra Brynne when she spoke during the candidate summation at the end of the evening.

She said it was great to see the solid links between all of the topics and all of the people assembled.

“None of us is going to have a good life all on our own … what I heard tonight is people really want to live together,” she said, adding that people still are striving to build community, sustainable economy and relationships.

The slate of candidates for the two-hour evening included incumbent NDP candidate Wayne Stetski, Brynne of the Green Party, Robin Goldsbury (Liberal), Trev Miller (Animal Protection Party of Canada), Richard Stewart (People’s Party of Canada) and Terry Tiessen (Libertarian Party of Canada). Rob Morrison of the Conservative Party was not in attendance.

People will have a chance to see the candidates and hear them speak at an all-candidates forum October 7 (7 p.m.) at the Nelson United Church, hosted by the West Kootenay Eco-Society. The forum will focus specifically on climate change.

Looking back

The Liberal Party, led by Justin Trudeau, won the last election with 184 seats (out of 338), allowing it to form a majority government with Trudeau becoming the prime minister.

The Conservatives, led by Stephen Harper, finished second with 99 seats while the Thomas Mulcair-led NDP garnered 44 seats. The Bloc Quebecois had 10 seats while the Green Party had one.

The 2019 Canadian federal election is scheduled to take place on October 21, 2019, to elect members of the House of Commons to the 43rd Canadian Parliament. The 40-day campaign will see the incumbent Liberals attempt to retain their majority that they won in the 2015 election. A party needs 170 seats to form a majority government in Canada.

Two of the three major parties will contest this election under new leaders: the Conservative Party, led by Andrew Scheer, and the New Democratic Party under Jagmeet Singh.

All of the candidates in the riding containing Nelson represent political parties, with no independent candidates.

Delving into the riding

The Kootenay-Columbia riding was created in 1997 and has been represented in the House of Commons of Canada by four parties, starting with Reform, then Alliance, Conservative Party and now the New Democratic Party.

The district was created in 1996 from parts of Kootenay East and Kootenay West-Revelstoke ridings, amended in 2003 to include a small part of Kootenay-Boundary-Okanagan.

The move was made after the 2012 federal election boundaries redistribution recommended the riding should be adjusted, with the communities of Nelson, Salmo and Kaslo and surrounding areas from the Columbia Southern Interior riding added in.

The riding, however, lost Nakusp and the Slocan Valley to the South Okanagan-West Kootenay.

According to a 2011 Census there are 107,589 people living in the riding with 83,190 electors (2015).

In addition to Nelson, the other major centres in the riding include Cranbrook, Revelstoke, Kimberley, Creston, Fernie, Golden and Sparwood.

— Source: Wikipedia

More information:

• Nelson at its Best: www.bestnelson.org (info@bestnelson.org)

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