Incumbent takes brunt of Port Alberni public forum

When the seven candidates running in the Nanaimo-Alberni riding took their places at the first all candidates debate in Port Alberni, they faced a lively and partisan crowd.

Pirate Party candidate Jesse Schroeder speaks at candidate debate in Port  Alberni on Monday night.

Pirate Party candidate Jesse Schroeder speaks at candidate debate in Port Alberni on Monday night.

When the seven candidates running in the Nanaimo-Alberni riding took their places at the first all candidates debate in Port Alberni, they faced a lively and partisan crowd.

That came clear even as they were introduced to the approximately 160 people who packed into the Capital Theatre Monday night.

As Liberal Renee Miller, Marxist-Leninist Barbara Biley, the Pirate Party’s Jesse Schroeder, Christian Heritage Party hopeful Frank Wagner and Conservative James Lunney were introduced, they were greeted with polite applause. When Green candidate Myron Jespersen was introduced, the room erupted in cheers, a noise only eclipsed by the response to the NDP’s Zeni Maartman.

That response pretty much set the tone for the two-hour debate, which saw an unflinching Lunney fend off attacks from the left of him and the right — but mainly from the two microphones on floor of the theatre in front of him.

The battle began early, with Miller’s opening statement launching the first salvo.

“Lunney said this election is something not asked for by the Canadian people, but I can assure you, this election started one year ago, with the attack ads,” Miller said. “Those are American-style politics, not what we want here.”

Lunney kept his opening statement to detailing his party’s record and offering a critique of the Liberal and NDP platforms.

“We kept taxes low and our plan worked,” he said, “with 480,000 jobs created. The opposition parties know our plan is working and voting it down was a risky gamble.”

Similarly, Maartman kept her remarks positive — at least in the beginning. In fact, her first jab wasn’t at Lunney, but rather, Miller.

“This election is between New Democrats and Conservatives in this riding,” she said. “Only New Democrats can deliver the change we need in Nanaimo-Alberni.”

Biley, Jespersen, Schroeder and Wagner also concentrated on enunciating their party’s platforms and kept their knives sheathed early on.

When it came time for questions from the floor however, the political blood began to flow.

“How do you see a Conservative majority government?” was the question from provincial NDP MLA Scott Fraser that really opened the flood gates.

“I need to change my pants,” quipped Schroeder, to loud applause and laughter.

Miller was equally succinct.

“We know what a Harper majority looks like,” she said. “It looks like fascism.”

Maartman discounted the possibility entirely.

“There will never be a Conservative majority because the NDP will not let it happen,” she said.

Jespersen tried to pour oil on the troubled waters, stressing that he would respect whatever the outcome, as it will be the will of the Canadian people. It was too little, too late, however.

Lunney, meanwhile, kept his cool.

“The NDP has one candidate at this table and another that seems to want to take her place,” he shot back. “What’s at stake here is that a vote for Jack [Layton and the NDP] is a vote to support Michael Ignatieff who will try to form a government with the help of the high-spending NDP.”

The rest of the debate, which covered issues such as the purchase of fighter jets, pension reform, forest policy, fish farming, Medicare and marijuana law reform, among others, was similarly spirited, with the moderator having to call for order on several occasions.

“Please treat all the candidates with equal respect,” he was forced to say at one point, when the shouting and heckling against Lunney became too much.

While the three main parties duked it out with the help — or hindrance — of the audience, the four representatives of the smaller parties for the most part kept on message, whether it was Wagner’s call to stand up against abortion, Schroeder’s plan to open up the Internet and patent laws, Jespersen’s focus on the environment and jobs, or Biley’s call for a reform of how the government works in Ottawa.

The first all candidates debate in Oceanside is slated for 7 p.m. on Monday, April 25 at the Craig Bay Beach Club at 1300 Gabriola Drive.

The action continues the following night, April 26, at the Parksville Community and Conference Centre, starting at 7 p.m. The forum is sponsored jointly by the Parksville and Qualicum Beach chambers of commerce.

Just Posted

The Co-op gas station at Whiskey Creek is burning after a camper van burst into flames just before 4 p.m. on Thursday, June 17, 2021. (FACEBOOK PHOTO)
Exploding camper van torches Highway 4 gas station between Qualicum Beach and Port Alberni

Highway traffic blocked after Whiskey Creek gas station erupts into flames

Morningstar Golf Club in Parksville will host the 2021 B.C. Junior Golf Championships. (PQB News file photo)
Morningstar Golf Club in Parksville to host 150 of B.C’s top junior golfers

Provincial boys and girls championship begins June 28

Hannes Grosse, left, and Iris Steigemann, right, as they prepared for their 'Moments of Silence' exhibit. The father-daughter duo are showing at The Old School House Arts Centre in Qualicum Beach until June 26. (Submitted photo)
Cortes Island artists exhibit at Qualicum Beach’s TOSH in first father-daughter show

Both artists will be present at shows on Friday, June 25 and Saturday, June 26

The Lighthouse Country Marine Rescue Society will get more funding from the Regional District of Nanaimo. (Submitted Photo)
More PQB communities to fund Lighthouse Country Marine Rescue Society

RDN to introduce amendment to service bylaw contribution

People line up to get their COVID-19 vaccine at a vaccination centre, Thursday, June 10, 2021 in Montreal. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Ryan Remiorz
Vaccines, low COVID case counts increase Father’s Day hope, but risk is still there

Expert says people will have to do their own risk calculus before popping in on Papa

Helen Austin performing with Trent Freeman at the 2018 Vancouver Island MusicFest. Austin is one of the many performers listed for the 2021 event.
Vancouver Island MusicFest goes virtual for 2021

Black Press to stream 25 hours of programming July 9-11

Greater father involvement in the home leads to improved childhood development and increased marital satisfaction, says expert. (Black Press Media file photo)
Vancouver Island researcher finds lack of father involvement a drag on gender equality

Working women still taking on most child and household duties in Canada: UVic professor

FILE – A science class at L.A. Matheson Secondary in Surrey, B.C. on March 12, 2021. (Lauren Collins/Surrey Now Leader)
Teachers’ union wants more COVID transmission data as B.C. prepares for back-to-school

BCTF says that details will be important as province works on plan for September

Provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry outlines B.C.’s COVID-19 restart plan, May 25, 2021, including larger gatherings and a possible easing of mandatory masks on July 1. (B.C. government photo)
B.C. records 120 new COVID-19 cases, second vaccines accelerating

Lower Pfizer deliveries for early July, Moderna shipments up

A Heffley Creek peacock caught not one - but two - lifts on a logging truck this month. (Photo submitted)
Heffley Creek-area peacock hops logging trucks in search of love

Peacock hitched two lifts in the past month

The Calgary skyline is seen on Friday, Sept. 15, 2017. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jeff McIntosh
2 deaths from COVID-19 Delta variant in Alberta, 1 patient was fully immunized

Kerry Williamson with Alberta Health Services says the patients likely acquired the virus in the hospital

The first suspension bridge is the tallest in Canada, with a second suspension bridge just below it. The two are connected by a trail that’s just over 1 km. (Claire Palmer photo)
PHOTOS: The highest suspension bridges in Canada just opened in B.C.

The Skybridge in Golden allows visitors to take in views standing at 130 and 80 metres

BC Green Party leader and Cowichan Valley MLA Sonia Furstenau introduced a petition to the provincial legislature on Thursday calling for the end of old-growth logging in the province. (File photo)
BC Green leader Furstenau introduces old-growth logging petition

Party calls for the end of old-growth logging as protests in Fairy Creek continue

Most Read