At a recent federal all candidates meeting in Nelson, not only did the candidates have to answer questions, but they were also tasked with getting together as a group for 15 minutes and deciding what they would like to ask the audience.
The evening was sponsored by Selkirk College’s Mir Centre for Peace and the Citizen’s Climate Lobby, and was set up to specifically deal with climate change, peace, and security.
Conservative MP David Wilks did not attend, and Libertarian candidate Christina Yahn was unable to come but sent a written statement of her position on the issues.
The remaining three candidates — Bill Green (Green Party), Don Johnston (Liberal), Wayne Stetski (NDP), — put their heads together and came up with these questions for the audience:
• What can we do to empower communities to invest in the green economy, and how should the government support local investment in green energy options?
• Carbon pricing: which way should we go? Should it be revenue neutral or is there a need for government to use the money to invest in the green economy?
• What do you want Canada to be known for?
• We know young people are really concerned about the environment and social justice, but how can how we involve them in politics?
Those were rhetorical questions — the audience didn’t actually have to answer them. But while the candidates were coming up with those questions, the audience was divided into small groups, each of which came up with one question to be posed to the candidates.
And in addition, for the first hour of the evening, a more traditional format saw moderator David Boyd asking the candidates a pre-set list of questions.
“We really wanted to present a more engaging and less adversarial approach to democracy in how we designed the forum,” said the Mir Centre’s Jan Inglis. “Because we think it is important in addressing the big issues.”
Inglis said the audience appreciated the time to talk to one another.
“The audience’s group questions were specific and well articulated,” she said, “not a rant on their own opinion. They read them very succinctly. It was a good example of public engagement in democracy.”
Laura Sacks of Citizen’s Climate Lobby said she was heartened by the discussions about climate change.
“It was nice to see that there is a consensus among the candidates, of taking climate change and peace and security seriously,” she said. “They were thinking deeply about it, not just giving us one-liners.”
Randy Janzen of the Mir Centre said the good turnout and the quality of the discussion means that for many people, “issues of climate change and peace and security are the primary concerns. They trump the economy as the major issues. It was a collaborative and solution-focussed discussion.”