Sunday’s Almost-All-Candidates Meeting in the West End
As about 150 of us gathered in the community centre auditorium Sunday, Karen Shillington (NDP), Hedy Fry (LPC), and Adriane Carr (GPC) took their seats. The guy at the end of the speakers’ table was not the Conservative Party candidate; he was the moderator. He explained that the missing candidate had a last-minute conflict.
So they went on without her.
The first thing Adriane Carr did was to acknowledge the presence of Travis McCrea from the Pirate Party. He’d been greeting people outside and now sat in the audience. “I know what it feels like to be excluded,” she said. Then she named the Green Party’s biggest issues: climate change and the restructuring of our economy based on renewable energy sources, which in her view would create jobs.
Hedy Fry reminded us that Canada used to be known as an international peacekeeper, a champion of human rights and one of the first countries to sign the Kyoto Protocol. Not any longer, she claimed, and she blamed the Conservatives.
Karen Shillington also acknowledged the Pirate Party for being there and then told us a bit about her background, since she is the least well known of the candidates. Part of what inspired her to run for office was her experience as a single mom and her involvement in the anti-poverty coalition. “I don’t think coalition is a bad word,” she said, grinning. Bottom line: She doesn’t like the way Canada is going and feels that Jack Layton is the leader we can trust.
The moderator suggested that after each candidate’s brief presentation, he would choose issues that are part of the Conservative Party campaign and get the other candidates to comment. After the first round, someone from the floor raised an objection. The moderator explained that he was trying to give the Conservatives a voice, which was decent, given the lack of explanation for the candidate’s absence. But why should we hear the opinions of a party that couldn’t be bothered to show up, when we could just as easily read the Conservative Party’s website ourselves?
Fair enough. The moderator presented topics for the candidates to discuss: corporate taxes, health care, pensions, housing, among them.
And so the debate began in earnest, coolly enough on the subject of corporate taxes, health care, and pensions, upon which there are areas of agreement between the three parties. But when it came to issues of poverty and the war in Afghanistan, things started to heat up.
Though the NDP’s Karen Shillington held her own pretty well throughout, she really found her footing and her voice on the subject of poverty, perhaps because she had lived it in a way the other women at the table had not. “A rising tide lifts some boats and sinks others,” she said, citing our perceived recovery from the economic downturn. In addition to a national housing strategy, she said we need a national transit strategy to ensure that people could get to work no matter where they live.
The Green Party’s Adriane Carr made a distinction between the issues of homelessness and affordable housing and, like Shillington, called for a national housing plan, saying that we are one of the only G8 countries without one.
At one point, a young man stood and asked why none of the candidates seemed to support what he called “proper equipment” (referring to the controversial fighter planes) in a war he saw as inevitable, one he will most likely be fighting.
Carr answered by stressing the need for Canada to once again serve in the role of peacekeeper.
Shillington thanked the man for speaking and said, with all due respect, that she felt war was not inevitable.
When Shillington blamed the Liberals for getting us involved in Afghanistan, Hedy Fry was quick to remind us that Canadian troops were sent in under the United Nations to protect civilians and not in a combat role. “Things changed under the Conservatives,” she said.
To find out more about Karen Shillington, Hedy Fry, and Adriane Carr, visit their websites: http://karenshillington.ndp.ca/; http://www.hedyfry.com/about; http://vancouvercentregreens.ca/about-adriane-carr