As the federal election approaches, voters might be forgiven if they find the rhetorical verbiage of the main political parties a bit overwhelming.
The national platforms of each of the parties have been laid out, but it’s sometimes difficult to draw their connection to local issues.
We contacted the candidates of the four leading parties to ask what they considered the main issues for Sooke, and what plans they have to address those issues.
Three of the four candidates listed transportation as an important local issue with NDP incumbent Randall Garrison saying that the improvement of Highway 14 a critical issue.
For his part, Liberal candidate Jamie Hammond is more specific: “Within 60 days, I’ll have a transportation action team in place. The province has to lead on this but a larger vision is needed,” Hammond said.
Green Party candidate David Merner put an environmental spin on the transportation issue, citing a lack of investment in public transportation and a failure to exploit things like the E&N railway corridor.
“There has been a lack of vision and imagination to address transportation,” Merner said.
Conservative candidate Randall Pewarchuk did not raise transportation as an issue.
Three candidates raised affordability as an issue, but this time it was Pewarchuk, Garrison, and Merner who said that the issue was at the top of their agendas.
Garrison noted that rental availability and price and housing for seniors is still a challenge.
Pewarchuk said the numerous tax cuts proposed by the Conservatives would give Sooke residents more money in their pockets, making life more affordable.
Merner’s take on the question was more direct.
“People have become cynical and angry and we know that they are having trouble making ends meet,” he said.
“That’s why we’ll keep our promises with initiatives like free tuition and Pharmacare.”
Climate change was raised by the NDP, Conservative and Green candidates, but with very different takes on the issue.
Garrison acknowledged that “climate comes up” at the doorstep when he’s campaigning and says that a transition to a low-carbon economy is critical.
The Conservative Party approach, voiced by Pewarchuk, calls for the elimination of carbon pricing and a shift to relying on industry to innovate green initiatives.
“Let them do the initiatives and we give them tax credits when they do,” Pewarchuk said.
Not surprisingly, it was the Green Party candidate who was most vociferous on the climate change issue.
“We’re heading in the wrong direction. Everyone says that climate is a priority, but we have a 20-point plan to address the crisis,” said Merner.
Hammond, the Liberal candidate, did not raise climate as an issue.
The one issue that all the candidates raised as a priority was fish, specifically salmon.
NDP candidate Garrison pointed out that this year’s fishing closures were devastating and called for more support for local volunteers whose hatchery work has been vitally important.
Pewarchuk, whose government imposed the closures, acknowledged that more funding for hatcheries was important.
“I’m surprised that there is no funding (for the hatcheries) yet. The charter operators are not getting the support that they need. I want to be on the right side of history on this so we need to get everyone around a table to find real solutions,” Pewarchuk said.
It was the Green Party candidate Merner who had the most to say about the salmon fishery.
He cited the need to invest in science and stop playing politics with the issue and added that community hatcheries actually put fish in the water while critics of the fishery do not.
“Community hatcheries need our support in a meaningful way,” Merner said.
Hammond, the Liberal, didn’t address specific salmon fishery issues, but said that “we need our oceans and rivers and forests to be clean and healthy.”
He added that the environment is “critical for tourism and for eco-friendly jobs in the region.”
The federal election is Oct. 21.
Eight candidates are running in the Esquimalt-Saanich-Sooke Electoral District.