This is one of five profiles of the candidates for the Abbotsford electoral district, which includes most areas south of Bateman and Maclure roads and east of Mount Lehman Road. For links to the other profiles, see the bottom of the story. Watch The News and Abbynews.com for profiles of candidates in the Mission-Matsqui-Fraser Canyon riding next week.
He has sat in the House of Commons for nine years, but Conservative candidate Ed Fast says there is still much he would like to do as the Member of Parliament for the Abbosford riding.
Fast heads into this election the incumbent, having never garnered less than 60 per cent of the votes since first running federally in 2006.
Asked why he deserves to be re-elected, Fast pointed to his record in Parliament, his three terms on Abbotsford city council and his two terms as a trustee on the school board, which he said has “provided me with the experience to continue to lead our community and represent our community.” He also cited his time as a lawyer and a cabinet minister.
“I believe I bring a special skill set to the table.”
Fast said only his party can provide a government equipped to navigate a “very fragile and uncertain world.” He cited the Conservatives’ fiscal record and projected a balanced budget this year, along with the government’s tax cuts.
Asked why polls suggest fewer Canadians will vote for his party in 2015 than in 2011, Fast demurred, saying he didn’t want to speculate on voters intentions. When pressed on what he or his government could have done better, he said “it’s always easy to reflect back and consider what things could have been done better. We’re not perfect but I can tell you that on all the things that really matter to Canadians, we have gotten it right and I believe on election night, the results will reflect that.
Named Canada’s Minister of International Trade following his 2011 re-election, Fast has spent much of the last four years jetting around the world. He estimates that he’s set foot in 60 different countries during that time, and recently led Canada’s delegation during negotiations for the Trans Pacific Partnership (TPP).
Although he has kept a busy schedule as Trade Minister, Fast said he has still been a successful advocate for Abbotsford in the federal government.
“As member of Parliament for over 10 years, I’ve clearly delivered for the people of Abbotsford.”
Since the Conservatives’ election in 2006, he said the government has provided more than $70 million in federal funding for projects in Abbotsford, comparing that total to what he said was a total lack of infrastructure spending here during the previous Liberal government’s time in office.
Fast also cited the $6-million contribution to a gang prevention strategy.
“Those are the types of investments we’ve made into Abbotsford and there’s still much more that needs to be done.”
The government committed to provide funding to build the Vye Road overpass, although that project has hit a snag, with the city and the railways suggesting an expanded program is necessary. Fast said there are ongoing discussions about funding for the future of that project, but couldn’t provide details.
He said he would also like to see the widening of Highway 1 to Abbotsford, which is in the province’s 10-year transportation plan, happen soon, and that the the government is working “very seriously” on the file. No funding commitment has yet been made on either that nor the widening of Mt. Lehman Road to Abbotsford International Airport although discussions are “ongoing,” he said.
A report last year suggested dikes in the Fraser Valley needed to be built higher to prevent billions of damage from severe floods expected to happen more often.
Asked how the federal government will address the issue, Fast pointed to a $60 million flood management funding across the country in 2006. He also pointed to a $200 million disaster mitigation fund announced last year that can be accessed by municipalities. He said he wasn’t aware of Abbotsford applying for funds, which would be contributed on a cost-sharing basis.
He said other funds are available through the country’s broad infrastructure funding.
“I’m fully committed to working with the city to ensure its priorities in terms of federal government support are actually delivered upon.”
Polls currently suggest that none of the three major parties look likely to win enough seats to form a majority government. With both the NDP and the Liberals saying they wouldn’t support a Stephen Harper-led minority, The News asked how the Conservatives could lead a functioning government.
“I can’t speculate on what we are going to see on Oct. 19.” He said he’s “confident” Canadians will elect another majority government.
On the refugee crisis that has made headlines in recent months, Fast said his government has increased the number of refugees Canada is willing to accept. He said Canada will give priority to persecuted ethnic and religious minorities and will speed up the process to get those people who are eligible and want to leave out of the region quicker.
“We’ve made a firm commitment that we will be resettling 10,000 refugees by September of next year,” and said barriers have also been lowered to expedite the process. Fast also hailed local organizations like Mennonite Central Committee and the Inasmuch Community Society for their work helping refugees.
Fast said the government is focusing on resettling those refugees before it again increases the cap on the number of people Canada will accept in the future.
With government shrinking its budget in the face of declining mail volumes, Canada Post has moved to convert urban delivery of mail to community boxes. In Abbotsford, repeated occurrences of thefts from community mailboxes have prompted concern, but Canada Post has repeatedly declined to reveal both the scope of the problem and what it is doing to fight thieves.
Fast said mail theft was nothing new, and that Canada Post – which operates at an arm’s length from the government – has been installing more-secure mailboxes.
“Canada Post is keenly aware of the issue of theft from community mailboxes.”
Asked what can be done to ensure the public knows how safe their mail is.
“Canada Post understands very clearly it’s obligation to Canadians to communicate effectively and clearly.”
As for the need for community mailboxes themselves, he said “It should surprise no one that Canada Pos has to adapt to an evolving environment,” and that the move away from door-to-door delivery is reasonable.
The Conservatives came to office championing the need for accountability in the wake of the Liberals’ sponsorship scandal. But after passing the Federal Accountability Act in its first year, the Conservatives have run into their own scandals. They have also taken criticism for what is seen as a lack of openness in the federal government and related agencies.
Fast said the Accountability Act holds Parliamentarians to “the highest level of ethical standards. I can tell you it has had a very significant positive impact on the work that goes on in Parliament Hill.”
He said government is open to additional reforms.
On the future
Fast is now 60 years old, and has been in Parliament for nearly a decade. But while he loves to spend his free time hiking with his daughters, he says he doesn’t foresee leaving politics anytime soon, provided voters continue to support him.
“Right now I feel very good, I’m healthy, I’ve got lots of energy, there’s so much that I would still like to do at the federal level in promoting Abbotsford’s interests and also promoting Canada’s interests on the world stage that right now I don’t see myself retiring anytime soon.”
When he does, he said he will remain in Abbotsford, where his parents, four daughters and four grandsons continue to make their homes.
“We intend to live out the rest of our lives in this community, because it is the best community in British Columbia and we’re going to do our part to make sure it stays that way.”