Candidates running in the Prince George-Cariboo riding faced off at an all-candidate forum on Monday night, which was hosted by the Prince George Chamber of Commerce.
Conservative incumbent, Todd Doherty, Jeremy Gustafson with the PPC, Liberal candidate Garth Frizzell, NDP candidate Audrey Mckinnon, Green Candidate Leigh Hunsinger-Chang and Henry Thiessen with the Christian Heritage Party were in attendance.
The hot topic of the night was gender-based violence, and Moderator and UNBC Political Science Professor, Dr.Gary Wilson posed the following question:
“Alongside the COVID-19 pandemic, we’ve witnessed a shadow pandemic of increased gender-based violence or violence against women and children in the home. If elected, how would your government respond to such a complex and ongoing issue?”
Each candidate had their own response, but the NDP, Green, and Conservative candidates all agreed that addressing the National Inquiry into the Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Girls is important.
The PPC’s Jeremy Gustafson blames the increasing reports of gender-based violence on the lockdowns, and to address the issue he would eliminate all lockdowns by eliminating all provincial funding for them.
“I’m an ex-fisherman and any ex-fisherman will tell you cabin fever is a real thing. That’s what happens when you’re couped up in a tiny enclosed space and can’t get out. And I certainly saw all the devastation from these lockdowns coming especially women getting slapped around by their husbands.”
Meanwhile, Liberal candidate Garth Frizzell says the Liberals have the political will to address the issue by focusing on two main areas.
“We’ve got to get inter-city bus transportation up, we’ve got to get housing availability up, that’s why these are part of the important planks of our platform. It was a problem before the pandemic but the distance and inability to travel exacerbated it,” he said.
Henry Thiessen with the Christian Heritage Party says strengthening the family unit is one of the important steps to addressing increasing rates of gender-based violence.
“And what the pandemic and the lockdowns have done, especially the lockdowns, is exacerbate these problems and the lockdowns have done more harm than the virus has so we need to remove those restrictions on people and give them hope.”
The NDP’s Audrey Mckinnon says Canada needs a national action plan to end gender-based violence, one that includes opening shelters for women in under-served areas.
“But I also want to take the opportunity to talk about the calls to justice from the National Inquiry into the Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Girls, we have a lot of policy suggestions that we need to respond to and we need to take that action now. Lives are at stake and a lot of women have died because of Indigenous genocide and it is something we’re committed to doing.”
Green Party candidate, Leigh Hunsinger-Chang agreed with Mckinnon that the calls to action need to be addressed, but she says other steps need to be taken as well.
“The Green party really stands for developing and reinforcing our social safety net to ensure that everyone in our society is safe and has access to their basic human rights. So we need to address the affordability crisis in terms of housing so that people have a place to live. Transportation is critical and we need child care so that people can go to work and have a place for their kids to go.”
Todd Doherty with the Conservative Party says he would also take steps to address the Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Girls inquiry, along with taking other measures.
“We’ll also amend the criminal code so it’s an aggravating factor in sentencing for assault when the victim is in a domestic or dependant relationship with the person,” he added.
During the course of the forum, issues such as reconciliation, senior care, and military spending were also thoroughly discussed.
The election will take place next Monday, for information on where and how to cast your vote, visit the Elections Canada website.