Candidates missing from CUPE election forum

It was CUPE's turn Wednesday night to stage an all-candidates forum for the Battlefords electoral district at the Dekker Centre.

The forum, held the night after the Battlefords Chamber of Commerce's similar event downtown, had a more wide-open format that allowed questions to be put to candidates directly by individuals from the floor.

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It was also notable because two candidates were conspicuous by their absences.

"We have made previous commitments," said Herb Cox, Saskatchewan Party incumbent, in speaking to reporters the night before at the Chamber event.

"As you know, in a campaign you have to organize your time, there's only so many days."

Also missing was Josh Hunt, Green Party candidate, who wasn't at the Chamber forum either. Hunt says out-of-town job commitments prevented him from participating.

That left the other two candidates Rob Feist of the NDP and Dexter Gopher of the Liberals to attempt to make a go of it for the people in the main theatre and those at home.

Unfortunately, with only half the candidates showing up, it made for a less than thrilling evening, though the questions from the audience proved lively.

More than one noted they wished Cox had shown up to answer the questions they had.

"I really wanted Herb here for this one," one said. Another lambasted both Cox and Hunt for not appearing.

"I'm disappointed that the other candidates aren't here," he said, adding, "When a community has interest in hearing what they have to say, and they don't show up … it doesn't hold them in high regard in my mind."

Feist and Gopher stayed on message and emphasized their party's policies, repeating many of the same points they made the night before on issues such as mental health, PFRA pasture lands, nuclear power, First Nation issues and political accountability.

The big issue of privatization also came up. On this latter issue Feist used the example of Saskatchewan Hospital and blasted the use of P3s in that project.

"Instead of having it costed, they put it on a P3 credit card," said Feist.

"Now, a British corporation, a foreign corporation, is going to take all of the money that should be going to Saskatchewan people, Saskatchewan province, and ship it off to the United Kingdom."

Gopher's view of privatization wasn't favourable either and he repeated his familiar theme of profits leaving the province with little staying in Saskatchewan.

"The Saskatchewan Liberals under Darrin Lamoureux are opposed to privatization," he said.

But Gopher also took the previous NDP government to task for "failing to put Saskatchewan contractors first priority when it comes to these contracts."

The forum took place the same night as the televised leaders' debate from Regina, which took place right before the all-candidates meeting started. Video from that TV debate was shown inside the theatre for the audience just before the local candidates took to the stage.

Now, all the candidates resume campaigning with the April 4 election date moving closer. Gopher had plans to attend one more forum  hosted by FSIN in Saskatoon Thursday night.


Dexter Gopher and Rob Feist were the only two candidates who appeared at the CUPE election forum at Dekker Centre on Wednesday night. Photo by John Cairns

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