I’m sitting at Legal Grounds Coffee House in the same room as federal candidates Ed Fast, David Murray, Madeleine Hardin, and Daniel Bryce, listening to Alexandra Morton inform them about the plight of wild salmon in light of the harmful impacts of open-net fish farms.
She’s spoken for fifteen minutes, chronicling her story from being a researcher of orca whales in and around Echo Bay, to how she switched her research to the effect that salmon farms were having on wild salmon stocks through sea lice, waste issues, and viral epidemics.
David Murray, the NDP candidate has said he is happy to do an in-depth examination of this issue in the Today media group that he writes for, and says that it’s clear that salmon farms have an impact on wild salmon, and that regulations need to be developed to ensure the safety of salmon farms.
Madeleine Hardin, the Liberal candidate spoke as well (unfortunately I can’t hear quite well enough to pick-up her question. Sorry Madeleine!)
Ed Fast now speaks, saying he is in no position to pre-judge the Cohen enquiry, but does point out that the government is scrambling to address this issue. At this point, though he cannot prejudge, he is concerned about our wild salmon, and isn’t the Fisheries Minister, so taking positions on issues that he isn’t familiar with would be premature. “You’re the expert” he tells Morton.
She responds by enquiring what the Conservative position is on implementing Cohen’s recommendations when his report is released. His reply is that without seeing the recommendations, he can’t say what the response will be.
He then brings the topic to the Prosperity Mine issue, as an example of where Conservatives upheld the process and did not allow the mine to go forward. He points out that the Conservatives need to address this issue at the caucus level before he can take a public position, implying that if Cohen recommends something along the lines of an end to conventional salmon farming, then his government will adhere to that.
Anissa Reed jumps in, and points out that when swine flu or other epidemics occur, the government doesn’t “put things on the shelf” to be addressed at the caucus level. Fast responds by inquiring somewhat indignantly, “We’re not putting this issue on the shelf. Who struck the Cohen Commission anyway?” Now everyone recognizes this is becoming overly debate-style which is not the intention, and everyone backs off, so Morton takes the opportunity to point out that unlike many, she is a first-hand, rational, witness who’s taken huge risks and made huge sacrifices to publicize this issue the way she has.
Dan Bryce, Green candidate, then speaks, asking how to deal with the various levels of authority over the waters that wild salmon migrate through. He points out all the different stakeholders, and asks how we can have unified legislation that gets all the groups working together?
In the post event discussion, Hardin does point out that the beauty of being a Liberal is that she doesn’t have to toe the party line – she can speak and decide from the heart.
Then, John Vissers points out that when Sumas Lake was drained nearly a century ago, we wiped out a fishery that might have been worth 10 times the total value of the agricultural production that has occurred on that site, while in the meantime we are contaminating what was once the lake-bottom with pesticides and other toxins.
The main question that I have is, what happened to a democratic process where candidates were free to speak their mind and represent their constituents rather than be required to debate issues to the n’th degree within caucus before taking any public position?
I say that if a candidate won’t represent his/her constituents anywhere except in caucus, those constituents should think twice about sending them to Ottawa. After all, what proof is there that the representatives are actually saying what they say they will in caucus?

Abbotsford NDP Candidate David Murray with Ed Broadbent at Halifax convention 2009
email : davidmurrayabbotsfordndp@gmail.com
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