NDP's Melissa Atkinson to Conservative Ryan Leef: Why no MMIW inquiry?

Three of Yukon's federal election candidates met Wednesday afternoon for the first of several election forums, and it didn't take long for the conversation to become heated.

3 Yukon candidates square off at first election forum

Liberal Larry Bagnell, Conservative Ryan Leef and the NDP's Melissa Atkinson attended the forum hosted by the Yukon College Students Union. Green candidate Frank De Jong was to join by live-stream from Dawson City, but could not as Yukon's Internet service was down. (Dave Croft/CBC)

Three of Yukon's federal candidates met to debate Wednesday afternoon at Yukon College — the first debate between federal candidates in the territory — but it became quickly clear that nobody was looking at it as a warm-up round.

NDP candidate Melissa Atkinson fired shots at the Conservative Party's record on missing and murdered indigenous women, saying that "the record speaks for itself" when it came to the current government.

"[Stephen Harper] said, it's not a priority! So that tells you exactly where the Conservative party lies on this issue," said Atkinson.

Wednesday's forum was hosted by the Yukon College Student Union. Green candidate Frank De Jong was supposed to take part via live-streaming from Dawson City, but Wednesday's Yukon-wide Internet failure made that impossible.

In response to Atkinson, Yukon Conservative candidate Ryan Leef pointed out that as MP he voted in favour of an inquiry into missing and murdered indigenous women, even as his party did not.

"I exercised Yukon's voice and opinion on an issue that was important," Leef said.

"Where's your influence?" Atkinson shot back, her voice raised at times to speak over Leef. "If you can't draw that influence within your caucus, that draws me some questions."

"What you've told the audience is that one vote and one voice doesn't matter and doesn't count," Leef responded.

Liberal Larry Bagnell was quiet during most of the exchange, but said an inquiry is needed, as well as other initiatives to alleviate poverty and homelessness.

The three candidates also spoke about Northern research and education, and whether the Conservative government has done enough to fund and support it. 

"How come all the operational funding for the Kluane Research Station has been cancelled, and there's no federal funding this year?" asked Bagnell.

Leef said his government has spent lots of money on Northern research, but Atkinson cut him off.

"Scientific innovation? Scientists who are being muzzled by the Harper government," she said.

Several more all-candidates debates are planned for the coming weeks, including one next Tuesday, Sep. 29, hosted by the Council of Yukon First Nations.  

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