MLA candidates contest and concur at Q&A

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Speaking to a modest crowd, eight prospective MLAs spoke at a Q&A session at the Vic Theatre on April 29. The candidates answered questions on issues facing youth in Victoria, the amiability and agreeance among the candidates made for entertaining sound bites, but no major difference in opinions or viewpoints.

There were no B.C. Liberal candidates on the panel.

The candidates spoke on a variety of issues ranging from healthcare to transportation to the support of marginalized youth. The event was hosted and moderated by the City of Victoria Youth Council. The Martlet caught up with Sara Maya Bhandar, a Youth Council member, afterwards via email.

“When we were in the planning stages, we were inspired by a similar event that took place for youth during the last federal election period,” wrote Bhandar. “It was the first time that I had been to an event like that where youth voices were prioritized, and so we were seeking to recreate that experience.”

All questions asked were tailored with Victoria youth in mind, asked by members of the Youth Council and various other youths in the audience. There was no scoffing or strong reactions from any of the panellists, though the first question about diversity — what will your platform do to address diversity? — did raise nervous laughter from the panel — all of whom were white men.

Jordan Reichert, the independent candidate, said the solution was to provide more space for diverse voices.

“It’s not enough to have a bunch of white guys talking about diversity,” he said.

Perhaps the biggest difference in candidate opinions came from Andrew McLean, the Libertarian candidate, on the topic of healthcare. While almost all panellists agreed for the need of a greater investment in training doctors and nurses, McLean argued that the socialization of health care may not be as effective as people think.

“Profit is not a dirty word,” said McLean. He also suggested the introduction of private transport to increase accessibility, making reference to the provincial government’s openness to bringing ride-sharing companies like Uber into the province.

The B.C. NDP and the B.C. Green party offered few divergent opinions in their policies, but budgets did prove to be one sticking point for the candidates.

The NDP’s Bryce Casavant, who is running in the same riding as B.C. Green Party leader Andrew Weaver, pointed to Weaver’s record of approving B.C. Liberal budgets as reason to feel like he was “running against two Liberal candidates.” Considering the B.C. NDP’s concern about the Green Party taking left-wing votes from their party, the comparison between the Greens and the Liberals was not unexpected.

A question on public education garnered perhaps the most passionate responses from the panellists. The Green’s Chris Maxwell criticized the current government, arguing that the Liberals were too concerned with projects like the Site C Dam. Instead, said Maxwell, the Green’s were making education their number one priority. Kalen Harris agreed, mentioning that the Green promise to commit over $4 billion in funding for education over four years.

The most entertaining portion of the evening came when an audience member asked the panellists for one thing to thank the current B.C. Liberal government for.

“For giving me a reason to run!” McLean said.

The crowd and the panelists laughed.

“He stole my answer!” Harris joked.

As amicable as the event was, things are sure to become more intense as we get closer to election night.

Voting for the B.C. election will take place on May 9. More information about MLA candidates, party platforms, and electoral ridings can be found at elections.bc.ca.

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