The only debate to have all four main party candidates and an in-person audience in attendance on the Sunshine Coast took place a week before Election Day.
On Sept. 13, the Sechelt and District Chamber of Commerce played host to the NDP’s Avi Lewis, Mike Simpson for the Green Party, incumbent Liberal MP Patrick Weiler, and former Conservative MP John Weston, who are all in the running in the West Vancouver-Sunshine Coast-Sea to Sky Country riding.
Chamber chair John Henderson moderated the event, which was also broadcast and live-streamed from Blue Ocean Golf Club in Sechelt.
Throughout the event, the candidates drove home their party stances as they responded to a mix of questions on local and national issues. There were moments when candidates agreed with one another on certain points, and other moments when their exchanges heated up.
Simpson challenged Lewis to prove he believes no more elder trees should be cut down by going with him to the Fairy Creek blockade and getting arrested.
“I’ll go tomorrow morning to Fairy Creek. Let’s get arrested right now to stop that if not one more should be cut down. I’ll do it,” Simpson said, adding the old-growth forests in B.C. are being cut down by the provincial NDP government.
In the candidates’ closing statements, Simpson reiterated his desire to collaborate with the other parties and work together. During the event he had asked everyone to follow the science.
“Were I to be … elected, that would be a privilege in which my modus operandi is to actually face the climate change crisis absolutely seriously,” Simpson said, calling for a climate cabinet and proportional representation.
Weiler also addressed climate change, the Liberals’ $10-a-day child care plan and pandemic recovery in his closing statement, and the “very different visions” presented on stage.
“This is a topic that we all need to grapple with right now, because the government that forms at this point is going to be the one that makes the changes and brings in the policy – or doesn’t – to make sure that we can do what we need to do,” Weiler said on climate change.
“You have a choice to move forward with myself and with the Liberal Party, or you can move backwards with the Conservative Party and go back to the Harper years,” he added.
When Weiler mentioned Harper during the debate, at times Weston would say “new leader.”
Weston vouched for Conservative leader Erin O’Toole, saying people would like him more the more they got to know him. He criticized Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s decision to call an “unwanted, unnecessary” election.
“There is someone in the Prime Minister’s office today who abandoned Canadians and our allies in Afghanistan to call this election while B.C. was burning, and who has, time after time, missed any substantive commitments that he’s made on climate change, on providing water on Indigenous reserves, on the economy, and on restoring jobs,” Weston said in his closing statement. “Two things we learned from these six years: Sentiments are not actions and promises are not results. We need change.”
During the debate, Lewis condemned the vast amount of wealth generated by corporations during the pandemic, saying inequality escalated under the previous governments.
In his closing statement, Lewis said the race in B.C. is actually between the Conservatives and NDP, citing a recent poll. He called it a “stark choice between uniting the environmental progressive vote in this riding, or ... hurtling backwards to some very, very dark times that we were very relieved to get out of at the beginning of the Trudeau administration.”
He went on to say that he was honoured by the endorsement of Grand Chief Stewart Phillip of the Union of B.C. Indian Chiefs “because I’m part of the climate movement and I’ve got the patience of a movement politician. And I’ve been holding Ottawa politicians to account for 30 years, and I’m hungry to go out there and rattle the cage. That’s why I’ve had endorsements from people like Donna Shugar, former chair of the Sunshine Coast Regional District, Betty Baxter, a local hero, as well as my friends in the climate movement: David Suzuki, Bill McKibben, founder of 350.org, Maude Barlow from the Council of Canadians. I’m a movement politician. I’m ready to unite the vote of environmental progressives in this community, and I want to go to Ottawa and shake things up.”
The full event can be viewed on the Chamber’s Facebook page.