If Tuesday’s all-candidates forum for the Abbotsford riding involved “politely delivered blood and guts,” as the moderator colourfully put it, then Thursday’s meeting for candidates in the Mission-Matsqui-Fraser Canyon forum saw the sheen of decorum tossed aside – at least for a moment.
Sparks flew briefly, but not between the candidates competing against one another. Rather, they involved a heated exchange between Michael Nenn, the NDP’s candidate in Mission-Matsqui-Fraser Canyon, and Ed Fast, the Conservative candidate and long-time Member of Parliament for the neighbouring Abbotsford riding.
Fast was in the audience at Thursday’s forum to support Brad Vis, his long-time staffer and the Conservative candidate in the Mission-Matsqui-Fraser Canyon riding.
An hour into the debate, Nenn responded to a question on trade agreements by noting Fast’s presence in the crowd and blasting the Foreign Investment Protection Agreement with China, which was signed while Fast was the country’s trade minister. Nenn said the agreement gave Chinese companies power over Canadian citizens, a declaration that prompted Fast to yell “hogwash.” The two men then jawed briefly at one another, while moderator Melinda Friesen urged for calm.
After Nenn and Fast quieted, Vis began speaking on the topic, only for Nenn to audibly mutter “that’s absolute s—-” in reference to Fast.
The moment prompted Vis to say: “Come on Mr. Nenn. That’s not appropriate. We’ve been really good, we don’t want to go down that road.”
After Vis concluded, Nenn apologized to the audience for his “outburst,” but maintained that the agreements hurt workers.
The next morning saw neither Nenn nor Fast willing to concede ground.
“I got a little bit passionate about it,” Nenn said, repeating his concerns about the loss of Canadian jobs. But he said he wasn’t apologizing to the subject of his ire, adding that it was inappropriate for Fast to yell from the audience. “When somebody breaks the code of an audience – he called out and I had to hold him to account for it.”
Asked how he would respond to those who would demand decorum from someone running for political office, Nenn asked, “have you watched question period?”
Fast, meanwhile, pointed the finger in the other direction. He said Nenn was “effectively lying” about the trade agreement, and said he had the right to respond when Nenn singled him out in the audience.
“He called me out,” he said. “He identified me in the audience and he called me out and he knew that if I didn’t respond, he would be able to make all of his negative points without any response from me. Had he not called me out and mentioned my name, I would not have responded at all. It would have been inappropriate.”
Another story on the entirety of Thursday’s meeting will follow.
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