Competency in future infrastructure projects and the sourcing and spending of provincial revenues were the biggest points of conflict in the Abbotsford-Mission all-candidates online forum on Tuesday, Oct. 6.
To watch this or others all-candidate forums, voters can go to the Abbotsford Chamber of Commerce’s Facebook page. Videos of the Abbotsford West and Abbotsford-Mission meetings are expected to be posted Wednesday. A virtual all-candidates forum will be held Thursday. Residents can sign up on the chamber’s website to watch on Zoom, or can view a recording of the video afterwards on the chamber’s website.
Liberal incumbent Simon Gibson was on the offensive over the widening of Highway 1 throughout the debate, while NDP candidate Pam Alexis was steadfast in her party’s policy plans for future investments and infrastructure. Aeriol Alderking emphasized government deficits and parental rights as her greatest priorities.
Green party candidate Stephen Fowler and Conservative candidate Trevor Hamilton were not present for the debate.
Gibson touted his record as MLA in securing $37 million in funding for projects along Highway 17, South Fraser Perimeter Road, a $10 million drainage project for Nicomen Island and another $10 million diking project along the Matsqui Prairie, among others.
He consistently took aim at the NDP’s discontinuation of the Liberal plan to widen Highway 1 from 208th Street in Langley to Whatcom Road in Abbotsford when they left office in 2017.
“It’s very important to notice this. As soon as we were elected, the NDP turned it down,” Gibson said. “They’re dabbling with it right now, but if you want to be sure to get the highway built, you know who to vote for.”
Alderking expressed her commitment for widening Highway 1, and suggested looking into building thoroughfares and bringing the SkyTrain out to the Fraser Valley.
The incumbent claimed the NDP is also giving preferential treatment to certain unions on public-sector contracts over others, and his government would create a “level playing field.”
“It’s indefensible,” Gibson said. “We will definitely get rid of that and will save millions of dollars in infrastructure [costs].”
If elected, Alexis said advocating for infrastructure upgrades was one of her top three goals, along with affordable housing and health services.
She emphasized the NDP’s Oct .6 plan promising another $3 billion in infrastructure projects (in addition to $23 billion previously announced) and 18,000 attached jobs.
“I think 40 per cent [of citizens] on both sides of the river are involved in trades; that would certainly keep the economy moving in our communities,” she said.
Projects like the widening of Highway 1, a $76 million collector well project, the unfinished $32 million sewer line twinning project, and flood mitigation projects on both sides of the Fraser River are required for growth in the riding, Alexis said.
“The number one issue for Abbotsford-Mission is actually growth and the infrastructure that’s going to be required to satisfy that growth,” Alexis said. ‘Those projects are huge.”
All candidates stated their commitment to completing the twinning of the aging sewer line project, running from Mission to Abbotsford, which has been pegged as a potential environmental disaster if $20 million in funds are not secured for its completion.
Alderking stated her commitment to protecting farmers and the Agricultural Land Reserve land, which she said is constantly under pressure to be rezoned for industrial purposes.
“We don’t even have food security as it is right now. We could not provide enough food for every person in this province,” she said. “We need to get young people into farming … We have a massive food shortage coming around the world.”
But Alderking’s number one priority is enshrining parental rights to protect children against NDP’s Infant Act and an unnamed Liberal policy, which she compared to a B.C. 1933 sterilization program.
“We cannot have our children being sent to doctors without permission and knowledge of their parents, and then have them guided into procedures which will sterilize them and change their bodies forever,” she said.
“They are too young to be making these serious decisions.”
The road to recovery from the COVID-19-induced recession was another topic of divergent opinions.
The province needs to starting cutting any service that is “non-essential” in order to try to reduce the $73 billion deficit, Alderking said. She suggested health care as a start, which she said takes up half the provincial budget.
“We’re taking on new roles such as transitioning young [transgender] children; these are not essential things to do. Abortion is not an essential service,” Alderking said. “There are a number of things we could do that would dramatically cut the cost of medical in this province and direct it towards people who are in need of critical care.
“All these false promises that people are giving you are just fake news.”
Gibson was frank about the government deficit spending, alluding to the U.S. New Deal from the 1930s depression, stating it would likely continue for some time.
But he said that reducing taxation, such as the Liberal initiative to cut the PST, would “boost the economy ” and put money back in the pockets of consumers.
“We’re are a wartime economy … It’s beyond our control,” he said. “What we’re looking at is a way to mobilize people … so they can spend more.”
Alexis said her party’s plan is geared towards a long-term economic recovery, and large investments now will reap benefits in the future. She said cutting the PST will translate to cutting services in other areas, like health care and education.
“You will not be able to right the ship [immediately]; it will take some time. Everybody knows that, everybody understands that,” Alexis said. “The focus is on people right now.”