Actual debate between local provincial election candidates is rare, but it was a refreshing part of Tuesday evening's meeting hosted by the WaterWealth Project.
The format of all-candidates meeting in Chilliwack and Chilliwack-Hope in prior campaigns, and so far in 2013, usually results in staid affairs that allow few moments of back and forth between those running for office.
But on Tuesday, candidates were able to occasionally confront one another. It was Green Party candidate Kim Reimer who kicked it off.
In response to a question about how to create "green" jobs in the Fraser Valley, BC Liberal candidate Laurie Throness pointed to local companies IMW, Tycrop and Britco and their work in the natural gas industry.
"Laurie, how is LNG a green energy job?" Reimer asked. "Look at all the damage it does to our environment."
Throness replied: "It's much greener than the alternative, which is oil," adding that IMW builds fuelling stations for China that replace ones using dirtier fuels.
The focus of Tuesday's meeting at Sto: lo Nation was on water and the many issues that can affect the local resource both directly and indirectly, including: chlorination, gravel mining, salmon farming and the proposed expansion of Kinder Morgan's oil pipeline.
But before they got to water issues, respected Sto: lo Tribal Council leader Grand Chief Kat Pennier asked the candidates about First Nations issues, pointing to the Constitution and aboriginal rights and title.
"How are you going to work with us to make a good relationship so that we are all going to benefit for the future?" Pennier asked.
The question took most candidates off guard, but Excalibur Party leader Michael Hal-liday summed it up: "I think this is one of the hardest issues that British Columbians face."
An underlying theme of the meeting was the concept of local control over water resources. This was asked twice: once in the context of the Chilliwack chlorination debate and once with regard to the concept of creating watershed advisory boards.
The meeting's sponsor, the WaterWealth Project, is a newly created environmental campaign that seeks a goal of "100 per cent community control over decisions affecting our local home waters."
To that end, the group has a declaration it has asked election candidates to sign, but most have so far declined.
Throness said he did not support local control because, quite simply, water flows and provincial oversight is required to ensure one community doesn't damage another.
Both NDP candidates responded similarly. Chilliwack-Hope candidate Gwen O'Mahony said she still needed clarification what 100 per cent control meant.
Both Chilliwack candidate Patti MacAhonic and Throness said that local consultation was important.
Chilliwack BCCP candidate Chad Eros focused on the need for consultation with local communities with all matters, from gravel removal to pipeline construction.
Throness emphasized environmental reviews as the way to protect water and to allow much-needed economic development.
"If the benefits are greater than the risks then we ought to do the project," he said, in reference to Kinder Morgan's pipeline expansion.
MacAhonic and others said that wasn't working.
"I have seen our environmental assessment process gutted in our province and gutted in Ottawa," MacAhonic said.
"I think the assessment process so far has been an ass," Halliday said.
All the candidates did reasonably well at the meeting, although moderator Kai Nagata had some harder questions for Throness and the two BCCP candidates. Henshall did not seem fully engaged, which was likely a result of a car accident he said he was in earlier in the day.
Reimer was in friendly territory at the meeting and garnered the most applause in response to her statements.
Independent candidate for Chilliwack-Hope Ryan McKinnon held his own, weighing in on most subjects.
After the meeting both Eros and Reimer said on Twitter they appreciated that some debate was permitted.
"Prob the only venue w [with] a bit of debate allowed. Need that," Eros Tweeted, in part.
"I do enjoy true debate, as long as it remains respectful," Reimer tweeted.
All four candidates for the Chilliwack-Hope riding were in attendance. Four candidates for Chilliwack were at the meeting, with only BC Liberal John Martin absent.
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