NORTH BATTLEFORD - Four of the federal candidates in Battlefords-Lloydminster riding squared off Wednesday night in an all-candidates forum organized by the Battlefords Chamber of Commerce.
Conservative incumbent Rosemarie Falk, NDP Erik Hansen, Liberal Larry Ingram and Maverick Ken Rutherford were all in attendance. Candidates invited who were not in attendance were Terry Sieben of the People’s Party and Kerri Wall of the Green Party.
It was the third year in a row that the Battlefords Chamber had organized election forums, having also staged forums for the 2019 federal vote and the 2020 provincial and municipal elections. The fact there had been so many elections in the past few years was an early talking point at the forum.
Ingram noted this was his fourth election in six years, and pointed out that in 2017 the previous MP Gerry Ritz had resigned.
“The Conservative candidate decided, well, it wasn’t costing taxpayers enough money already, so we’ll have a byelection.”
Ingram also defended the early election call, citing that it had been a minority Parliament.
“Minority governments for the most part last 18 months,” said Ingram. “This one’s getting really close to two years.”
There were few surprises from candidates about their policy positions. Falk touted support for the Conservatives’ Canada Recovery Plan as well as anti-corruption laws and bringing the budget to balance in 10 years.
“The Canada Recovery Plan is a plan for everyone. It does not pit sector against sector or region against region,” said Falk. “I am confident the voters here in Battlefords-Lloydminster will find policies in our plan that will help secure their personal economic future, well-being and security.”
Hansen expressed concern about the “three existential threats” to the world, citing atomic war, environmental catastrophe and “disinformation on the internet which … has done a lot to, I think, divide the people of Canada.”
Ingram voiced his support for Liberal policies on COVID-19.
“I believe without any doubt in my mind that the Liberal government did more in our country than any of the other governments would have done,” said Ingram.
Rutherford voiced his support for policies that would benefit the West.
“The philosophy of the Maverick Party is simple. If it’s good for the West, I stand up for it. If it’s bad for the West, I oppose it.”
The forum focused on familiar topics. It began with responses from the candidates to chamber priorities, and then proceeded to questions from the public as well as a couple of questions from the media.
Questions posed included ones on inflation and affordability, domestic violence, seniors, the Lighthouse, whether Bill C-10 (the bill regulating the internet) should be revived and addressing the deficit.
The video of the entire forum can be found on the Battlefords Chamber of Commerce’s Facebook page with all the candidate’s responses included. The forum will also be shown on Access Now TV in the Battlefords.
There were some interesting exchanges, particularly on the issue of the carbon tax. Rutherford was the most hard-line voice in opposing it.
“I don’t want the carbon tax. I want it to be gone. I think it hurts us,” he said, citing the increase to the cost of living – something he spoke at length about earlier in the forum.
Falk was critical of Justin Trudeau’s carbon tax. “I don’t think the carbon tax works for lowering emissions,” said Falk.
She voiced support for Erin O’Toole’s plan and also pointed to the Supreme Court ruling that the provinces had to do something. “What Erin O’Toole has committed to as prime minister is he will respect the provinces.”
Hansen broke rank by saying “I’ll be the odd man out here because I agree with the carbon tax and it works for me.”
“I reduced my use of fuel. Maybe I’m responsible, maybe I’m just – I don’t know. But I think we have to address the environment somehow.”
“Erik, I’ll stand with you on this one,” said Ingram, who voiced his support for the carbon tax as well.
A hot button point erupted later in the forum on the issue of where candidates stood on mandatory vaccinations, masks and vaccine passports and whether those measures are an infringement of people’s rights.”
Hansen responded “it may be your right, but I think responsibility trumps that right to refuse.”
Ingram said he believes “everyone has to get vaccinated, and on top of that, everybody gets a card that says you can come and go from which countries if you have been vaccinated or not.”
Rutherford spoke in favour of “freedom of choice … I don’t think it’s for me or for the government to tell you ‘no, you will do this.’”
He added the issue was dividing and said he was “exhausted” talking about it because it was so divisive.
“I just respect people and their opinions. We’re all different.”
Falk said she has always supported of the public health orders put in place by the province, but also said “I cannot support mandatory vaccination. I believe that is a decision between you and your doctor and you will make the best decisions for you.”
Falk also said her party did not support vaccine passports, adding that what leader O’Toole has said is “if you, as a Canadian, want to go to another country that requires a vaccine passport, you should be able to go to Health Canada and get what you need, if you’re vaccinated, to show proof in the other country.”
There are more election forums planned for Battlefords-Lloydminster in the coming days. A forum is scheduled for Unity on Thursday evening, and then one more in Lloydminster on Monday organized by the Lloydminster Chamber of Commerce.