Jolly good fellows

There wasn’t much debating at the all-candidates forum Friday night. The only issue that caused any disagreement was the Conservative Party’s plan to change sentencing guidelines and to spend billions building new prisons.

There wasn’t much debating at the all-candidates forum Friday night.

The only issue that caused any disagreement was the Conservative Party’s plan to change sentencing guidelines and to spend billions building new prisons.

“We don’t need an American-like system where you have to build more jails,” Liberal incumbent Larry Bagnell told the 50, or so, people who gathered at FH Collins Secondary.

The statistics say restorative justice is more effective at reducing crime than incarcerating people for low-level offences, he said.

“We should be dealing with the root cause of crime.”

Throughout the debate all the candidates made some negative remarks about the Conservative’s crime bill.

Just “warehousing people” is not a solution to crime, said the NDP’s Kevin Barr.

“Hurt people, hurt people,” he said.

“No government wants to be in a position to build jails,” said Conservative candidate Ryan Leef, defending his party’s plan.

Leef, who works as the deputy operations superintendant at the Whitehorse Correctional Centre, said he agreed with the other candidates about the need for prevention.

But said the changes to the criminal code are necessary, he added.

He went on to praise the work that goes on inside prisons to reduce recidivism rates.

“We build facilities around the programs,” he said. “That’s the heart and soul of the facilities, not the walls and the bars.”

The event, hosted by Bringing Youth Towards Equality, was focused on youth issues.

With voter turnout in last year’s election one of the lowest in Canadian history, and young voters the least likely to go to the polls, engaging youth was something all candidates could agree on.

“Really we should be listening to what you have to say,” said Barr, when asked about the importance of youth forums.

The internet and other advancements in communication technology were touted by both the Green Party’s John Streicker and Leef, as useful tools for connecting with young voters.

Education grants and job programs are things young people should think about in this election, said Bagnell, focussing on his party’s planks.

But from bullying to global warming, there seemed to be few issues the candidates couldn’t find common ground.

In a political climate where the negative attack ads started before the election was even called, and where for the first time in Canadian history a government was found in contempt of parliament, this kind of multi-party consensus has been rare.

“This isn’t what parliament feels like,” said Streicker. “Regardless of who you vote for, please vote.”

Contact Josh Kerr at

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