(from left) Mission-Matsqui-Fraser Canyon candidates Julius Nick Csaszar (People’s Party); John Kidder (Green Party); Michael Nenn (NDP); Jati Sidhu (Liberal); and Brad Vis (Conservative) at an All-Candidates’ forum last week. Photo: Tyler Olsen

LIVE STORY: Mission-Matsqui-Fraser Canyon candidates square off at forum

Join the Journal as we feature live coverage of the Oct. 16 forum at the Ashcroft HUB

Candidates seeking to be the Member of Parliament for Mission-Matsqui-Fraser Canyon will take the stage this evening at the Ashcroft HUB in an All-Candidates’ forum hosted and sponsored by the HUB Online Network. The meeting is set to begin at 7 p.m., and the Journal will be providing live coverage of the forum here throughout the evening.

There are six candidates seeking to become the riding’s MP in the federal election on Oct. 21. They are Julius Nick Csaszar (People’s Party); John Kidder (Green Party); Michael Nenn (NDP); Jati Sidhu (Liberal); Brad Vis (Conservative); and Elaine Wismer (Marxist-Leninist Party).

Hit your browser’s refresh button, or check back on the story later, for updates of events as they happen.

While you wait, click on the Election tab on the Journal’s home page to read more about this year’s election, candidate profiles, and more.

6:50 pm: Tonight’s forum is being moderated by the HUB Online Network’s Dana Foster. Attendees have been asked to provide questions in advance by email or in written form at the event. The questions will be read out by Foster. If time allows, people at the forum will be able to ask questions verbally.

Questions can be directed at all candidates, or at a specific candidate.

Present are John Kidder (Green), Michael Nenn (NDP), Jati Sidhu (Liberal), and Brad Vis (Conservative).

7 pm: Sound checks are taking place. There are about 70 people from Ashcroft, Cache Creek, and TNRD Area “I” in the gym of the Ashcroft HUB.

7:10 pm: People’s Party candidate Nick Csaszar has sent his regrets. Marxist-Leninist candidate Elaine Wismer is also not present; she has not attended any All-Candidates’ forums in the riding.

7:12 pm: Foster introduces the candidates one by one. she says each candidate will giove a short intro before the questions.

First up is Brad Vis. “It’s good to be in Ashcroft. He promised to be here every month back in April and has done that. Has been told it’s hard for families here to get ahead and businesses are suffering. Gun owners are worried about eroded rights. People in the Canyon want the pipeline built to avoid catastrophe in Thompson. Seniors are struggleg to get services they need. My pledge is this if elected: I will fight more a more affordable future. I want to help Ashcroft and Cache Creek move ahead. We will appoint a rural minister to represent rural interests. Will open a mobile MP office to provide timely services from your MP. Most importantly, I want to draw on hundreds of conversations I’ve had and work on your behalf to be your representative in Ottawa.”

Michael Nenn is next. “I’ve learned about accountability and perserverance and blue-collar work. I’ve watched consecutive Liberal and Conservative governments work not for you but for the one per cent. It’s time for a change. We need to invest in Candaians, not corporations. We’ve supported the health care system, pensions, things that are slowly being eroded. We promise to bring in child care, pahrmacare, to protect pensions, not erode them. We need to take the hard-earned tax dollars you make and use them for you. We need to invest in this country. We’re in it for you.”

Jati Sidhu is up now. “Elections are all about making choices. My choise is to continue to build comunity infrsatructure, high speed Internet, bring in pharmacare. We’ve helped seniors and families, and will continue to work with First Nations and community leaders. Our government has doubled gas tax funding for rural communities. Residents in rural communities should be very concerned about Andrew Scheer’s proposed $53 billion in cuts, which will affect infrastructure. I will continue working for you and hope to work wWeith you to move Canada forward.”

John Kidder is up now. “I’ve been up on this stage many times in many roles. Now I’m auditioning for the most important job in the country, being your MP. We will spend money on the issues you care about. We are the only party who submitted a fully costed, full platform. We don’t just love trees; we can count. We need to reduce emissions, and we have one shot to do this. We can do this.”

7:20 pm: First question: Will there be a citizens’ referendum for public input?

Vis: Canadians need to have a choice about how Parliament debates issues. I propose legislation to give Canadians a voice in the House.

Nenn: We support electoral reform. We need to ask people what their thoughts and opinions are. Should have had electoral reform by now.

Sidhu: Had seven town halls through this riding and asked constituents what changes they wanted to see. Consulted 40,00 people across country; people didn’t want to change. will listen to people about health care, pharmacare.

Kidder: Thousands of people did want electoral reform. MPs need to vote according to what their constituents want, not according to party line.

7:25 pm: What is your plan for addressing climate change?

Nenn: Money to transition workers into new, clean energies. It takes time to transition but need to do it now. Need to invest in public transit, in rural and urban communities. Need to look at closed-door ways of salmon farming.

Sidhu: Climate change is real, neeed to take action now. Trudeau signed Paris accord, have signed MOU with China. Promising to phase out coal, zero emission vehicles by 2050.

Kidder: Green Party believes in science. We have to cut emisssions, be net carbon neutral by 2050. We have a plan to get there. It can be done, requires political will.

Vis: Green technology, not carnon taxes. Have a plan to conserve more of the natural environment, and take technology global to help countries like China reduce emissions.

7:30 pm: Can you name the Five First Nations language groups in the riding?

Sidhu: Worked closely with many First Nations groups over the years.

Kidder: Names four of the five.

Vis: Names one of the five.

Nenn: I’ll be honest and say no, I don’t. Also acknowledges we are on unceded territory.

7:35 pm: What in your personal/work life experience helps you understand needs of rural Canada?

Sidhu: Elected member of national rural caucus and we persuaded Prime Minister to crate rural minister position. As your MP, I’ve dedicated myself to working for the riding. I’ve been a businessman, a builder, I’ve created jobs.

Kidder: Lived all over Canada, spent a lot of time outside as a cowboy, done a lot of physical labour, economics, technology. When questions brought to me can usually find a connection, an understanding of the issue. I chose to come to Ashcroft after my wife died twn years ago. I’m a rural guy.

Vis: Born and raised in Matsqui, worked on family farm. My mom said ‘Don’t be ashamed.’ I come from background of rural resilience.

Nenn: Blue collar background. I’m passionate about politics, it impacts all of us. I have a wife, three small children. I’m not polished, I speak from my heart. I watch Canada governed by bankers, people who don’t understand places like this.

7:40 pm: What is your party slogan, what does it mean to you and people of riding?

Kidder: Not right, not left, forward together. We don’t believe in right or left, we need to look at things in all their complexity and move forward.

Vis: Helping Canadians get ahead. Will we have a Canada that is fiscally responsible, tackles the environment.

Nenn: People don’t feel they’re doing better. We have a million people still in poverty, 600,000 seniors in poverty. It’s about investing in Canadians. Need to go vern for people and be accountable.

Sidhu: Want to build on what’s been done over last four years. Lifted many children and seniors out of poverty. Typical family of four now $2,000 better off. Helping first-time home buyers. Increased old age secutiry.

7:45 pm: How would you and your party face challenge of affordability and livability facing millennials?

Vis: Need to reduce overall tax burden on families to help them get ahead, not just get by.

Nenn: We wa nt pharmacare, which will include dental, prescriptions. want child care to help families, a program to retrofit homes, also want to cap cellphone and Internet bills. Eliminate interest in student loans.

Sidhu: Talk to mayors and councils about health care, put more money into medicare services. Working closely with telecom companies to decrease coast of services. Giving student grants up to $4,200 per year, doubled number of student job spaces.

Kidder: Greens think should have free tuition, cancel existing student loans. This for post-secondary and trades. Increase stock of lower-cost homes to get people a start in the market. Livability: millennials marching all over the world to give us old farts a message. Liva bility is not about money.

7:50 pm: What is your party’s stance on fracking?

Nenn: Cut subsidies to oil industry. We understand fracking is bad, and we’re against it.

Sidhu: We’re investing money to electrify. [asked by audience member to clarify] Fracking is good if it’s done right.

Kidder: Fracking is not good if it’s done right or wrong. It emits as much methane and emissions as burning coal. It’s not acceptable under any rationale by any who wants to take action on climate. Fracking: No, under no circumstanes.

Vis: Yes, I support fracking, as I support resource extraction. We have a great record here in Canada.

Audience reacts to Vis saying that if the Green Party had its way, Alberta would be a separate country. This provokes some audience reaction and heated words amongst two or three audience members. Foster restores order.

8 pm: What are you thoughts on increasing disability and pension payments?

Vis: In our platform have committed to improving disability payments. We do not commit to increasing pensions but to decreasing overall tax burden.

Nenn: Disabilities: increase programs, work with the disabled to make sure workplaces are inclusive. Work on no barriers or constraints. Pensions: Will enshrine in legislation that pensions are protected, create a nationwide pension plan to protect people and workers, allow people to retire with dignity.

Sidhu: Seniors: Changed retirement age back to 65 from 67. Double benefits for disabled children.

Kidder: Want to double CPP benefit within five years in context of balanced budget. Have $30 million budget for national dementia strategy.

8:05 pm: Thoughts on firearms, taking PAL and RPAL process out of hands of RCMP.

Nenn: Has RPAL, gun owner, goes to shooting range regularly. Don’t know about taking process out of hands of RCMP. Have very different system here to the States, very thorough.

Sidhu: Introduced Bill C71 enhancing background checks for those seeking firearms. Am rural farmer, have two guns at home.

Kidder: For many people, farmers and conservationists, need long guns. Military-style weapons have no place in hands of Canadians or even cops. Should have buy-back program like in Australia. Rifles, long guns, pistols for shotting are fine.

Vis: Open to a 10-year licence, can’t comment on RCMP aspect.

8:10 pm: Recruiting and retaining school staff in rural and remote areas a huge challenge. How can government ensure our students have fair access to education?

Sidhu: Wang to make sure every Canadian has access to high speed Internet so can have classes, do business online. By 2027 90 per cent of Canadians in rural areas will have high speed Internet. Invested millions. Not a luxury anymore, it’s a necessity.

Kidder: We have program for early childhood care and education. Had not thought of issue, though. Have a great school in Ashcroft.

Vis: Education is a provincial, not a federeal, responsibility. Indigenous people, schools need to receive adequate funding, similar to or higher than schools in provincial system.

Nenn: Education is provincial, but my wife is a teacher. NDP supports education, will eliminate interest on student loans. Need to ensure public school system is there, that communities have growth and prosperity so teachers, doctors, want to move there.

Thoughts on e-cigarettes and vaping, especially re: students and around schoolgrounds.

Kidder: They’re vile. Shows people wanting to make a profit from evil. They flavour these things, set them up for children. They’re addictive. They should not be allowed.

Vis: Growing epidemic especially for children. Need effective prevention and policies in place so our young people not impacted. Growing issue of vaping marijuana products. Hope Health Canada scientists developing policies to stop this.

Nenn: Vaping is a scourge especially for our children. Need to have the teeth to keep these out of the hands of our children, brutal that companies can sell them to our children. Opioid crisis is a huge crists for Canada, and we will support four pillars and go after pharmacology companies.

Sidhu: Been watching this situation [vaping]. Our youth are being hurt and getting sick and we can’t have that.

8:15 pm: Question about forestry.

Vis: Tis squareky because of Liberals. We have no softwood lumber agreement. We will work on that immediately and get an agreement and get people back to work.

Nenn: Silviculture huge, need vaue added products. NDP committed to open and transparent processes when making agreements.

Sidhu: We have opened doors, signed agreements, had continuous meetings with industry, have promoted our lumber abroad. Opened the doors in many countries, have set aside $230 million to promote industry.

Kidder: We would assist in reforestation, support the province with forestry.

8:20 pm: Question about abortion rights activists supporting Conservative candidates.

Vis: Scheer been very clear he won’t reopen abortion questions. I have my own beliefs as a Christian but stand behind Scheer that he won’t reopen abortion question.

Nenn: NDP will not reopen. Believe in women’s right to choose. Also economic issue: gender pay gap between men and women is a problem. Do you see any women up here?

Sidhu: Studies have shown if we give women more rights and empower them the next generation is better off.

Kidder: I’m proud to work for a woman leader. Women taking leadership roles around the world. Proud to be second fiddle to a strong woman leader.

8:25 pm: Green Party is committed to no pipelines, and strong First Nations ties, but some FN groups want the pipeline. How do you reconcile?

Kidder: Resolutely anti-pipelines no matter who owns them. They’re un-economic. There’s no market for the product. FN across the country can use solar, wind to make power. Don’t support anyone who builds pipelines.

Sidhu: Notes everything Liberals are doing for the environment.

Nenn: NDP believes spending $4.5 billion on leaky pipeline not in best interests of Canadians. Committed to working with FN regarding titles and rights on their own land. Committed to ensuring FN have resources for their economically viable projects.

Vis: Believe FN best stewards of our land. Some FN understand money and benefits of pipelines, will monitor effects of pipelines on their people.

8:30 pm: Will your party continue to support agreement boosting education for First Nations?

Kidder: Yes, also pay for negligence and treatment of FN children. Believe opportunities for FN are ample, don’t need pig in a poke of a pipeline. Will support them in what they want to do but not pipelines.

Sidhu: Yes, need to honour agreement. We’re on the right track with reconciliation.

Nenn: Will have clean drinking water, access to health care, education, honour 94 reconciliation calls to action.

Vis: Yes, FN children should have same access, opportunities as all other children.

8:35 pm: Where does your party stand on medicare?

Vis: Increase annual transfers by 3.5 per cent, invest in more medical technology, announced national autism strategy. We support universal medicare in Canada, not wavering on that at all.

Nenn: Drug costs are abysmanl. Need to have universal pharamacre, hearing vision, medication. Need to look at preventable causes. Need the machinery but also need doctors, nurses, technicians, comes back to education. Need to expand system, make it better.

Sidhu: Over last four years increased number of doctors in our country. Injecting $6 billion into medicAre over next five or six years for doctors in rural hospitals. Committing to national pharmacare. No family would pay more than $100 per years for medications.

Kidder: Greens support medicare. Tax those with nost ability to pay in order to pay for services. Canadians in rural commuities don’t have equal access to health care. Need effective health care for rural communities. Got medicare in this country because of a minority government.

8:35 pm: How does foreign aid benefit ordinary Canadians?

Sidhu: Need to keep relationship with rest of world, as we’re a trading nation. We need infrastructure to deal with rest of world. need to have good relationships and help so people don’t come to our door when they have no food or jobs.

Kidder: Have ethical duty to share with people not as well off. We’re one of wealthiest countries in world. Need to respect the issue of climate, we’re biggest polluters, we have not assisted rest of planet to help with these issues rich countries have caused.

Vis: 25 per cent overseas development cuts will be to hostile nations, higher income coutries. Conservatives want to help world’s neediest people but some spending not acceptable to Canadians.

Nenn: NDP committed to maintaining rights of minorities, children. Will increase overseas spedning. remember when Canada used to be a peacekeeper. Not so much anymore; time to reverse that. Committed to working with UN, not with distatorships and despots.

Closing remarks

Kidder: Thanks for coming out; I appreciate it. When voting, think of your children and grandchildren when making your mark. The issue of what’s happening with the planet, and having it as good for our children as for us, is the issue. We need to step up to the plate and be responsible to our children and grandchildren. We can’t avoid it, but it’s an opportunity we don’t want to ignore. This transformation will be amazing. All our heads are in the same place; use your heart when voting.

Sidhu: Serving as your MP been highlight of my life; thank you. Committed to Pharmacare, increasing CPP, creating 250,000 new child care spaces, going to ban single-use plastics, plant two billion trees. Residents of rural communities should be worried about Scheer’s proposed infrastructure spending cuts, will hit small communities.

Nenn: Are you better off now than you were 10 or 20 years ago? Will keep money in Canada, look to ordinary Canadians and not to corporations. NDP will invest in you, make sure there is a spreading of the waelth so we can all grow together. We’re in this for all of you, not for multinationals.

Vis: Let’s talk about integrity. If you vote for me, ask yourself Was I open and accessible? Did I stand up for you as a taxpayer? Was I here on a regular basis? Did I build relationships with First Nations? Did I have your back?

And that’s it for tonight’s forum. Thanks everyone!

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