Kelowna-Lake Country candidates

Five of the seven candidates vying to become Kelowna-Lake Country’s next MP attended an all-candidates forum Monday night at the Creekside Theatre in Winfield. They are, from left: John Barr of the People’s Party, Liberal incumbent Stephen Fuhr, independent candidate Daniel Joseph, Conservative Tracy Gray and Green candidate Travis Ashley.

The loudest cheers of the evening came when Green candidate Travis Ashley declared himself a person, not a politician, and embarked on an impassioned speech about politics having to change in order to save the planet.

The loudest jeers of the evening came when People’s Party candidate John Barr laid out the party’s five-point platform, including getting a second opinion on climate change and abolishing the CBC.

Ashley and Barr were two of five candidates who attended Monday night’s Kelowna-Lake Country all-candidates forum, presented by the Lake Country Chamber of Commerce.

The three others who showed up were Liberal incumbent Stephen Fuhr, Conservative Tracy Gray and independent candidate Daniel Joseph.

Not in attendance were the NDP’s Justin Kulik and independent candidate Silverado Socrates.

A capacity crowd of 300 at the Creekside Theatre heard each candidate make opening and closing statements and answer five questions in between.

Generally, applause was polite, except for the aforementioned cheers for Ashley and jeers for Barr.

However, neither Ashley nor Barr are likely to be elected Kelowna-Lake Country’s next MP in the Oct. 21 federal election.

That job will undoubtedly go to either Fuhr or Gray.

So, the crowd seemed to listen most closely to what the two front-runners had to say.

In his opening statements, Fuhr, a former CF-18 fighter pilot with the Canadian Air Force, kicked things off by patting the Liberals on the back for helping Canada have one of the fastest-growing economies in the developed world and locally funding many projects.

“I’m proud to run on my record,” said Fuhr.

In her opening statements, Gray, a former City of Kelowna councillor, said she decided to run for the Conservatives when the Liberals started to tax small business more after little consultation.

“I’m here to fight for fair taxation for small business, protect our water and environment, attract investment to the resource sector, and get help for those with mental-health issues and addictions.”

The trifecta of homelessness, drug addiction and mental illness emerged as possibly the biggest issue to be addressed in Kelowna-Lake Country.

Fuhr said the Liberals’ national housing program includes subsidized shelter for those experiencing homelessness, drug addiction and mental illness, and that the federal government is supporting mental-health initiatives, which are a provincial jurisdiction.

“There’s a gap in wraparound services,” said Gray. “The Conservative platform revises the substance-abuse strategy and invests in treatment and recovery.”

When asked for their two highest priorities for change, the candidates answered:

— Gray: housing affordability and lower taxes;

— Fuhr: climate action and reducing taxes for low- and middle-income Canadians;

— Ashley: climate change and abolishing university tuition for youth;

— Barr: energy self-sufficiency and lower taxes;

— Joseph: homelessness and hiring an environmental sustainability officer in Kelowna-Lake Country.

The serious mood was broken when candidates were asked what they would do to address the odour pollution of legal cannabis grow operations.

“I didn’t inhale,” said Barr to laughter from the crowd.

And then he said dealing with such an issue is a municipal affair.

Gray agreed it should be covered by municipal bylaws.

Ashley suggested better filters at grow facilities.

Fuhr said a research and development department at Lake Country grower Flowr may very well be working on odour-free cannabis.

Fuhr and Gray got into a back-and-forth when discussing small business taxation.

Fuhr said he is proud of the Liberals for reducing the small business tax to 9% from 11%. Fuhr pointed out Conservative Leader Andrew Scheer voted against the cut.

Gray shot back that while the Liberals were lowering the tax from 11% to 9%, they scrapped income splitting, dramatically hurting many small business owners.

“The Liberals broke many promises,” said Gray.

“They didn’t pay off debt by 2019, they are not ethical or transparent. Does (Prime Minister) Justin Trudeau deserve another four years?”

Gray was put on the hot seat when asked about Scheer’s stand on women’s reproductive rights and LGBTQ rights.

“The Conservatives will not be reopening the abortion debate, and there will be no changes to existing laws (on abortion or LGBTQ rights),” she said.

Fuhr used his closing statements to take a final shot at the Conservatives.

“I don’t think there’s such a thing as the Progressive Conservatives anymore,” he said. “They are the reform Conservatives of the 1950s, favouring policies that take us back in time, not forward.

“The Liberals are for an affordable, low-carbon, knowledge-based economy with good jobs,” Fuhr said.