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Candidates debate Sea to Sky issues

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Does anyone else feel like they are between a rock and hard place voting in the provincial election on May 9?

The Sea to Sky's incumbent candidate Jordan Sturdy is well liked, well respected and many would argue has done a great job for the constituents.

From the Resort Municipality Initiative funding, to helping to get provincial funding for housing in Whistler to issues around transportation, many believe he works hard and with integrity to support the issues of importance to our area.

But in many ways, this election is not about voting for a local candidate — it is about using our vote to register our disdain or support for the actions of those who lead our political parties.

And at this week's all-candidates debate, it was pretty clear that many in the audience have had enough of the BC Liberals and Premier Christy Clark — though it was Sturdy who had to bear the brunt of voter outrage over issues such as the Woodfibre LNG plant heading toward operation, the failure to ban the trophy grizzly bear hunt, the debacle that is the Site C dam and, of course, the issue of the "cash-for-access" controversy.

That last one really riled the audience. We learned through media reports earlier this month that the governing BC Liberals brought in more than half their $13-million in donations last year from cash-for-access fundraisers, such as golf tournaments and dinners with Premier Clark, fundraising techniques that have been widely criticized.

"The events have become a lucrative source of revenue for the BC Liberals. For example, the party raised $938,800 at a single event on June 6 in Vancouver," reported the Globe and Mail.

Of greatest concern to many voters are the donations received from those associated with oil companies given the BC Liberals' position on the Kinder Morgan pipeline — the BC Liberals have said "yes" to the pipeline project that will result in 34 oil tankers leaving the Burnaby docks on Burrard Inlet each month — a seven-fold increase over current traffic — while the rival New Democratic Party and the BC Greens both oppose the project, which is scheduled to begin construction later this year.

A report from the Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives' Corporate Mapping Project revealed that 48 fossil fuel companies and industry groups donated $5.2 million between 2008 and 2015. Of these donations, 92 per cent of the funds went to the B.C. Liberals.

"Clearly these corporations are profit-oriented," Bill Carroll, co-director of the Corporate Mapping Project, told Rabble.ca. "So when they make political contributions, these are investments."

These investments, he said, are often in the hopes of seeing tangible results from the political party the corporations or lobbyists are donating to.

"It's trying to put in power — or keep in power — a party that is generally sympathetic to its overall perspective," he said. "The B.C. Liberals are pro-business, so it's not surprising that they get 92 per cent of the total contributions from the carbon sector corporations."

The RCMP is currently investigating potential Elections Act violations involving allegedly illegal lobbyist donations to the B.C. Liberal Party.

Of course, the BC Liberal Party is not the only one doing it. The NDP hosts these types of events as well bringing in millions, though party leader John Horgan has said that if elected he would ban these donations.

Only the Green Party accepts no corporate or union funds — something riding candidate Dana Taylor said loud and clear at the April 24 debate at the Squamish Lil'wat Cultural Centre to the 60 or so people in the audience.

"This is government by donation," he told the audience. "If you want your democracy back, get rid of the money."

As the audience reacted to the issue, Sturdy's frustration was evident — like all candidates, he wears the actions of his party.

Taking a deep breath he agreed that reform was needed and explained that the Liberals were committed to addressing the issue and that a special panel was being formed to look into the issue along the lines of the Electoral Boundary Commission. But if audience reaction was anything to go by, the announcement is too little too late.

At least one person in the audience also raised a concern that the Liberals approved the new Master Development Plan for Whistler Blackcomb without truly considering the impacts more recreational facilities and further growth would have on a resort whose locals are already stretched to capacity.

Some might have left the debate observing who won or lost on Monday night, but the more important question for voters is what leadership looks like at the top of the party ranks.

Unfortunately, voters in Whistler never heard from the local NDP candidate, Michelle Livaja, as she could not attend.

But there is still two weeks left to go until Election Day, May 9. Take the time to speak to your candidates, read their party platforms and the budgets that go along with them.

And then make sure you vote.

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