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Daggers out at all-candidates meeting

Four of riding’s nine candidates take part in debate

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The gloves came off early in the Whistler All-Candidates meeting on Wednesday night, as incumbent Conservative MP John Weston and Liberal Party challenger Dan Veniez got into a series of heated exchanges.

Halfway through the campaign it was clear that there was no love lost between them.

It started in the opening statements. Weston said the Liberal Party was making "flamboyant promises" in their campaign that were "uncosted and unrealistic," while pointing to the Conservative's record on the economic recovery.

Veniez then used his opening statement to call attention to the "millions of dollars" that Prime Minister Stephen Harper spent on attack ads against Liberal leader Michael Ignatieff.

"That's what Conservatives do... They impugn your reputation," said Veniez.

"If they don't like you they fire you. They shut down Parliament."

He also pointed out that the Conservative Party was the first in history to be found in Contempt of Parliament, though to be fair it was a highly partisan vote with Liberal, NDP and Bloc MPs voting together.

Then came a question on where the Liberal candidate stood on a coalition if it meant forming an alliance with the Bloc Quebecois.

Veniez said it was obvious that the person asking the question had already made up their mind to vote Conservative, then repeated the party line that the Liberal's goal was to win the election and that a coalition was not currently on the table.

However, like other Liberal candidates, he left the door open a crack: "Our duty as Parliamentarians is to work together, to consult, to make it work, and the tone and substance of the House of Commons is set by the Prime Minister. Under Harper we've seen more incivility and more corroding of the democratic process than under any leader in the recent history of Canada."

Weston used his next opportunity to speak to mention that Veniez called British Columbians whiners at the all-candidates meeting in West Vancouver: "We heard in West Vancouver (from Veniez) that British Columbians were whiners and complainers because they don't like how they were represented in Confederation," said Weston, before describing how the Democratic Representation Act - which would have added more House of Commons seats to B.C. - died in Parliament because of the snap election call.

Veniez, who had the final word on that question, lost his temper. "John, your twisting of the facts borders on lies," he said, and then accused Weston of hiding behind his Blackberry and getting prompts from someone in the audience rather than speaking for himself.

Someone in the audience, which numbered about 70, called out, "that's a nasty comment," to which Veniez replied that what was nasty was the way Conservatives attack their opponents.

"It's consistent with the attitude and mindset and general approach of Mr. Harper's Conservatives," said Veniez.

"It's embedded in their DNA. So stop it John. Stop it."

Weston did use another opportunity to deny Veniez's Blackberry accusation, pointing to his experience running for Party leader and standing as a candidate in two federal elections.

Points scored on both sides, the debate did get a lot more civil after that point - although it was pretty clear that there were some large points of contention on everything from military spending to health care spending.

Read the next edition of the Pique for full coverage of the all-candidates meeting in Whistler.

 

 

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