There was one clear winner at the federal all-candidates meeting on Thursday night – the Vancouver Canucks.
Moderator Douglas MacAdams called it “a wonderfully large crowd for a hockey night,” and noted: “Our devotion to the public good has been rewarded, for we have won.” There was a standing ovation.
Despite the NHL playoff game, the Azalea room at the Garden Park Tower was well packed by people who wanted to see their candidates for MP square off in debate.
Recent national polls have shown that the NDP has surged ahead of the Liberal Party, and that was reflected in the debate.
“Today we’re faced with the threat of a government led by Jack Layton, where the strings will be pulled by (Bloc leader) Gilles Duceppe,” said incumbent Conservative Ed Fast.
“I don’t know if the Bloc is going to have enough seats to even be involved in a coalition,” countered NDP candidate David Murray, and he advised Fast to “take that out of your playbook.”
Daniel Bryce told the crowd that his Green Party has policies that will appeal to people from every political stripe. Their small-government policies appeal to the right, and their plan for a guaranteed minimum income is from the left.
“It is truly the something-for-everyone party,” he said.
Fast was on the hot seat much of the night, facing more questions than any other candidate. A member of the audience said if he is tough on crime, he should be tough on a crime against what can be considered as a murder of the unborn – abortion.
Fast responded that he believes life begins at conception, but he supports Stephen Harper’s position that government should not re-open the abortion debate.
“The prime minister is wisely focusing on issues he knows he can make headway on,” said Fast.
The candidates were asked if they support capital punishment, and all four answered no.
They were asked if they support electoral reform such as a proportional representation system. Fast answered no, Hardin BOTH yes and no, and Bryce and Murray both yes.
Hardin attacked the Conservative economic record, contrasted against the years of surplus budgets generated under the Liberal governments of Jean Chretien and Paul Martin.
“I’m a fiscal conservative, that’s why I’m a Liberal,” she said. “I represent the only party in Canada with a record of 10 years of sound financial management.”
She said strong banking regulations put in place by the Liberals helped Canada weather the global economic crisis, that the Conservative government took a $13-billion surplus and turned it into a deficit, and have brought in a budget with a $55-billion deficit – the largest in Canadian history.
“We’ve cleaned up after the Conservatives before, and we’ll do it again,” she said.
By contrast, Fast listed his government’s economic achievements, saying they met the challenge of the global economic crisis with an action plan that saw the largest infrastructure investment in the nation’s history.
“It’s no surprise Canada has been referred to as an economic star,” he said.
“Tax freedom day comes three weeks earlier than it used to under the old Liberal regime,” he added.
Fast was asked whether the city is being forced into a P3 water system to get federal funding. He responded that most of the infrastructure grants from the federal government are for projects with traditional financing, and a small part are set aside for P3 partnerships. He said city council has chosen to pursue that funding model.
“It will be going to referendum, and the people will have their say,” Fast pointed out.
Murray used one of his opportunities at rebuttal to state: “No private company should own water.”
Hardin said, “The Liberals will get rid of the P3 fund. It’s not working. Only eight per cent of the fund has been drawn.”
The Abbotsford Chamber of Commerce partnered with the Fraser Valley Real Estate Board in hosting the event.
David Mackay, candidate for the Marxist-Leninist Party of Canada, did not attend.