South Island MLA candidates go face-to-face with students

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As part of the UVSS’s Count on Your Vote campaign, the UVSS held the South Island Candidates Fair on March 31. While the Communist Party failed to receive a proper invitation, both the B.C. NDP and B.C. Green Party were in attendance. The B.C. Liberals were a no-show. Photo by Alistair Ogden, Staff Writer

While the Communist Party failed to receive a proper invitation to the South Island Candidate’s Fair on March 31, both the B.C. NDP and B.C. Green Party were in attendance. The B.C. Liberals were a no-show. Photo by Alistair Ogden, Staff Writer

On March 31, the South Island Candidate’s Fair, organized by the UVSS as part of its Count On Our Vote campaign, welcomed a pool of candidates from the B.C. Green Party and B.C. NDP to the SUB. A steady stream of students flowed and ebbed through Vertigo Lounge, conversing with candidates about politics and provincial issues.

Students meet candidates one-on-one

According to a recent poll by Mainstreet Research, the B.C. Greens have been gaining traction on Vancouver Island, pulling even with the B.C. Liberals ahead of the NDP among decided voters.

In addition to attending the candidate’s fair, the Greens released their climate change platform. It includes a greenhouse gas reduction target of 40 per cent below 2007 levels by 2030, as well as increasing and expanding the provincial carbon tax. Their platform, which has been released in installments over the past three weeks, is the only one currently available among the three main parties.

Though they’ve yet to release their 2017 platform, the NDP inspired no shortage of conversation at the fair. Bryce Casavant, the NDP candidate for Oak Bay-Gordon Head who made headlines in 2015 for refusing to kill two bear cubs (and as a result uses the image of a bear on his campaign signs), spoke to students about several topics, including the B.C. Liberals’ “reactionary” approach to the fentanyl crisis.

Casavant mentioned, as he did during a recent candidates debate on April 2, the B.C. Liberal government’s refusal to pass a private member’s bill put forward by NDP MLA Mike Farnworth that would’ve restricted access to pill presses and tablet machines. Casavant also released a statement on the B.C. NDP website after debate outlining his experience with bears and asserting his opposition on the grizzly bear trophy hunt.

Notable party absences draw scrutiny

Despite the goodwill and conversation on display, the fair had an undercurrent of discomfort due to two noticeable absences: neither the Communist Party nor the B.C. Liberals were in attendance.

In the case of the Communists, who currently have one candidate, Tyson Strandlund, running in Esquimalt-Metchosin, UVSS Director of Campaigns & Community Relations Maxwell Nicholson admitted that he was responsible for the no-show.

“I’d like to apologize and take the blame for that,” said Nicholson. “We had a bit of a miscommunication where Jordan [Quitzau, UVSS director of events] had reached out to them . . . so my staff were under the impression that they had been invited and were coming, when in reality they were waiting for the official invite.”

In an email to the Martlet, Strandlund condemned the UVSS for what he saw as an intentional omission of his party. “That the individuals in the UVSS could be so collectively and continually ‘forgetful,’ if taken at face value hardly instills me with greater confidence in their ability to fulfil and stay within the limitations of their mandate,” he wrote.

The B.C. Liberals’ non-appearance was less easily explained. “That was definitely disappointing,” said Nicholson. “I’m not one hundred percent sure of their reasoning for not coming. I’ll tell you it’s not for our lack of trying . . . We made every effort to try and have them out and ultimately they decided not to come.”

Other candidates’ responses to the Liberals’ absence varied. Casavant and Chris Maxwell (Green Party candidate, Victoria-Swan Lake) both opted not to comment. But Lana Popham (NDP MLA Saanich South), Sonia Furstenau (Green candidate, Cowichan Valley), and Rob Fleming (NDP MLA, Victoria-Swan Lake) were all quick to condemn the governing party’s non-attendance.

“It’s a sign of disrespect,” said Furstenau. “There’s a lot of cynicism in politics at the moment, and their absence only creates more.”

“It’s typical,” said Fleming. “The [B.C.] Liberals haven’t governed in the interest of young people, why would they start now? I think Christy Clark should talk to Stephen Harper — who’s now unemployed — about what happens when young people vote.”

Since the debate, the Martlet received responses from B.C Liberal candidates Barb Desjardins and Alex Dutton explaining their absence from the candidates fair. The former was serving as mayor of Esquimalt and chair of the Capital Region District, and the latter was meeting with a local stakeholder on the issue of derelict boats.

The provincial election is set for May 9, with advance polling for voters on campus beginning April 13. For more on the election, visit martlet.ca.

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