Social issues were up for debate on Tuesday night as five of the six candidates running in the Mission-Matsqui-Fraser Canyonriding attended an all-candidates meeting hosted by Mission Community Services Society (MCSS).
Topics ranged from missing aboriginal women to help for veterans, and disabled programs to infrastructure.
A question from the audience regarding road repair for Lillooet, led to a brief debate on infrastructure:
Liberal candidate Jati Sidhu said his party will spend $125 billion on infrastructure, and the party is “committed to build newroads, build new bridges and build new schools.”
Conservative candidate Brad Vis said the Conservative have invested $3.5 billion in infrastructure funding in B.C.
“We’ve made record investments in this program and all of you see that day to day.”
He cited the Port Mann Bridge, Alex Fraser Bridge and improvements to the Sea to Sky Highway and the Mission Bridge asexamples.
When asked about his stance on holding an inquiry to investigate missing aboriginal women, NDP candidate Dennis Adamsontold the crowd his party was in support of the process.
“We said that within 100 days of being elected, we would start that inquiry. It’s about time.”
Arthur Green, of the Greens, said his party fully supports the findings of the truth and reconciliation commission.
“The Green Party will implement those findings and will stand with First Nations governments,” he said, adding the Greens willcall for an immediate national inquiry for murdered and missing indigenous women.
Sidhu said domestic violence is five times higher among aboriginal women, and over the past decade, thousands have gonemissing. He said the Harper government has been “putting a blind eye on it.”
“We, the Liberal Party, within the first 90 days of government, we will call for a national inquiry.”
When asked what his party would do to help programs for the disabled, Vis said working with those with disabilities was oneof his passions.
“The biggest thing that people with disabilities in the community are saying is we want a place to work, we want to feeldignified.”
He wants to work with local businesses to make sure more people are employed.
Vis also said his party promotes trade and education, and noted the government has made new programs for loan forgivenessfor people in trades and announced it will provide loan forgiveness for all First Nations looking to enter the medical field.
Wyatt Scott, an independent candidate, remarked that he likes to listen to election promises, adding parties tend to throwmoney at special interest groups.
He said voters have to look at the entire four-year term, adding the current government hasn’t diversified. He said the FraserCanyon has so many resources, it’s perfect for diversification.
“We have an opportunity to start building the green sector. B.C. is lacking right now in the green sector.”
He believes the technology and trades sector will flourish if that course is taken.
“We in the Green Party believe that the greatest economic catalyst that the world will ever see will be the transfer from fossilfuels to clean renewable energy,” said Green.
Adamson said the NDP would immediately raise the minimum wage to $15 an hour.
“That will get some money moving around the economy.”
But Vis said that move will only apply to one per cent of the population – federally regulated telecommunication workers.
“There will be no new minimum wage because that is a provincial responsibility. The federal government has no constitutionalauthority to say there will be a new minimum wage,” said Vis.
When asked about the legalization of marijuana, Scott said he felt pot is more accessible to children than alcohol.
“You can go to any playground and you can get marijuana. There’s a reason for that – it’s a black market item.”
He said criminals are profiting from marijuana, and it’s a “no-brainer” to take the drug off the streets, regulate it and put themoney in government coffers.
“We can enhance education, health care and whatever else we want.”
Vis said under the Conservatives, funding for health care has increased every year.
“We have promised the Canadian public that by the end of the decade there will be $40 billion in transfers to provinces.”
Green said a mental health and homeless strategy is one of the main platforms for his party, noting that homelessness andmental health often go hand in hand.
“We found it’s more economical to deal with homelessness than it is to ignore it.”
He is promoting a housing-first strategy, which focuses on first getting the homeless into shelter and then dealing with theissues that put them on the streets.
Sidhu, when asked about supporting veterans, said the current government has failed Canada’s military personnel, and theLiberals will “ensure that our veterans and their families have nothing less than the best of care and support from a gratefulnation.”
He said a quarter of the veteran affairs staff were cut since 2008.
Vis said his party has made some mistakes, but believes the new veterans affairs minister has made “some excellent changesto address some of the misgivings.”
While debate was civil for most of the night, some of the candidates became heated as the night went on.
Scott continued to promote the benefit of voting independent, saying party politicians are told how to vote by their leaders.
“There’s nothing democratic about that.”
He said he would represent the community, rather than a party. Scott also took an apparent shot at NDP candidate Adamson,who struggled to answer some questions.
“Some of us up here don’t even know our own party policy,” said Scott.
Adamson, who is a Fraser Valley Regional District director, admitted to not knowing all the NDP policies, but said, “I’ve beenspending the last seven years actually governing. I’m not sitting around in a rock shop watching politics, talking to peopleabout it. I’m actually doing it.”
Scott owns a rock shop in downtown Mission.
Vis joined in the debate, saying Scott, as an independent, wouldn’t sit on any committees, and would be in the back of theroom, speaking less and having less opportunity to do things.
He then turned his attention to the NDP candidate, noting he was audited in 2012-13 for $28,000 in expenditures related totravel.
“That was like going across Canada back and forth six times, and that was for representing 720 people in the community ofYale and surrounding areas,” said Vis.
Adamson defended himself saying, “We were all audited and it was found that there was no wrongdoing whatsoever.”
Elaine Wismer of the Marxist-Leninist Party was invited, but did not attend the all-candidates meting.
Several yes or no questions were asked of all candidates including: If elected would you support continued funding of the CBC?
All said yes.
If you are elected, will you vote to repeal Bill C-51? All candidates said yes, except for Vis.