Election 2015: Conservative, NDP, Green candidates hash it out at all-candidates meeting

Abbotsford: Ed Fast, Jen Martel, Stephen Fowler attend event Sept. 24

Green Stephen Fowler (left)

Green Stephen Fowler (left)

by Laura Rodgers, Abbotsford News

Conservative Ed Fast, NDP candidate Jen Martel and Green Stephen Fowler all gave their best pitches to voters at the Abbotsford all-candidates meeting on Sept. 24, as organized by the Abbotsford Chamber of Commerce, the Fraser Valley Real Estate Board and the Fraser Valley Indo-Canadian Business Association

Liberal candidate Peter Njenga was not present, as was Marxist-Leninist Party candidate David Mackay.

Fast, the incumbent and current Minister of International Trade, made use of his experience by giving very detailed answers about trade issues, especially those relevant to Abbotsford farmers.

The debate began with questions posed by the three organizing groups, which were mainly focused on business and real estate concerns. On the topic of whether the government should support a limited statutory deemed trust to protect fruit and vegetable sellers in the event their buyers become insolvent, Fast first explained the financial concept, then he said the current system was “not appropriate” and he hopes to come up with a better system.

Martel, a first aid instructor, said she wasn’t familiar with this specific topic, but mentionined the NDP’s platform on maintaining supply management for local poultry and dairy farmers. Fowler, a teacher, mentioned the Green Party’s preference for small-scale organic farming over “factory farms.”

The candidates covered issues from international free trade agreements to small-scale local deals for duty-free shops, nationwide strategies to local issues. After the debate. Fast said he was interested in the economic issues discussed, but also thought the audience seemed very interested in his comments about Islamic terrorism.

“I noticed that the discussion about how to address the issue of Islamist extremist terrorism was also of great interest to the crowd,” Fast said.

Martel, when asked about her uncertainty on a few farming-related questions after the debate, said she’s focused her research in the area on talking to individuals and looking at things from a national scale.

“We spoke with local farmers from various different farms in the area,” she said. Looking at it from a national scale as well as a local scale is a big thing.

Green candidate Stephen Fowler said he wasn’t sure how large a farm needed to be before it would be considered a “factory” farm.

“I don’t know the exact definition,” Fowler said. Factory farms are where there isn’t any relationship between the owner and the animals. We like family farms, like the ones on the Sumas Prairie.

This was the only all-candidates meeting currently scheduled for the Abbotsford ridings. Two different meetings for the Mission-Matsqui-Fraser Canyon riding will take place next week. Voting day this year is on Oct. 19.

For a more in-depth recap of this Abbotsford debate, see next Wednesday’s print edition of the Abbotsford News.