The issues ranged wide and the answers ranged wider as candidates in the federal election gathered for a public forum in Parksville Tuesday night.
Topics included food security, environmental threats, funding for the CBC, transportation, women’s rights, health care for seniors, fish farming and radiation from Japan, among others.
The forum, moderated by former Qualicum Beach councillor Wendy Maurer, kicked off with statements from the candidates before getting down to the business of finding the questions area residents want answered.
On the question of encouraging investment in the community, Marxist Barb Biley suggested international investment may not be such a good thing.
“Either you have foreign investors coming in and stealing resources and wrecking the economy or they come in and invest in communities and things Canadians need,” she said.
Pirate Party rep. Jesse Schroeder suggested upgrading the rail network on Vancouver Island, making it second to none.
On the issue of investing for a sustainable future, Conservative James Lunney said he’s proud of the federal government’s investments in a new cruise ship terminal, upgrades to the Nanaimo airport, the upgrade of the Ravensong Aquatic Centre and upgrades to water systems in both Qualicum Beach and Parksville. The NDP’s Zeni Maartman said she would reward the job creators — small businesses — as well as restrict raw log exports, invest in education and training for a high-tech future and invest in a national infrastructure renewal strategy.
On oil exports to Asia — and the possibility of increased tanker traffic off the B.C. coast, Green Myron Jespersen said he doesn’t support it, calling it an old source of energy that society needs to transition away from. Rather, he said, Canadians need to invest in the energy sources of the future, not the past. Biley, meanwhile, called for Canadian resources to be kept for Canadian use first, with only surplus considered for export.
One question was about the Fukushima disaster in Japan and the fears of radiation drifting across the Pacific, with the questioner wanting to know the candidates’ position on uranium exports.
Lunney said the situation is being monitored very carefully.
“There will be a lot of discussion about what went wrong and how the situations can be managed better,” he said.
Miller noted the World Health Organization rated the danger from other sources are higher than for nuclear energy.
“Nuclear energy is much safer than the coal energy that so many are concerned about this evening,” she said.
Two questioners dealt with funding for the CBC.
Lunney said noted his government has increased funding for the arts each year.
“We are big supporters of the arts and will continue to be so,” he said.
Maartman was more direct, noting her father worked for the CBC and pledging to increase funding for the public broadcaster. Miller also pledged to make sure the CBC thrives, calling it a proud cornerstone of Canadian culture.
When asked why Canada lost its seat on the UN Security Council, Jespersen said the Harper government had exported its policy of divisiveness into Middle East policy, rather than trying to work together with all sides. Miller said the UN had made its feelings clear about Harper’s government by leaving Canada out. Schroeder argued he’s tired of the UN, noting that Canadians were never asked if they wanted to drop bombs on Libya. Lunney said the loss had more to do with backroom dealings by UN members than with anything Canada did.