The six men and women seeking to be the Member of Parliament for Abbotsford will take the stage this evening at Matsqui Centennial Auditorium in an all-candidates forum hosted by the Abbotsford Chamber of Commerce. The meeting is set to begin at 6:30 p.m. It is sponsored by the Fraser Valley Indo Canadian Business Association and the Fraser Valley Real Estate Board.
The candidates are: Conservative Ed Fast; Liberal Seamus Heffernan; the NDP’s Madeleine Sauve; Locke Duncan of the People’s Party; Aeriol Alderking of the Christian Heritage Party; and Stephen Fowler of the Green Party.
Follow along and refresh this story regularly to read what the candidates are saying on the issues.
The meeting is set to begin soon and people continue to filter into the Matsqui Centennial Auditorium. The auditorium’s 386 seats are a little less than half full.
Each candidate will get three-minute opening statement. Questions from a three-person panel will follow. Each candidate will also get three special speaking/rebuttal cards to comment on another candidate’s answer. The audience also has been given cards on which they can fill out questions to be asked of candidates.
Local lawyer Douglas MacAdams, who has plenty of experience with leading such meetings, is moderating.
Candidates are seated alphabetically. MCA has filled out some more. Bottom is 2/3 full. Mezzanine only sparsely filled.
Alderking of the Christian Heritage Party goes first.
Says Christian Heritage Party puts priority on freedom and life. Starts speaking about need to protect life from conception. Says party stands for “alternative medicines, alternative therapies.”
Says party stands for “family.”
“The family has been under attack as never before,” she says. Alderking says party wants a “fair tax” and reduce income tax burden.
Locke Duncan of People’s Party of Canada goes now.
“I’m a newbie at this, so bear with me,” he says.
Duncan says his party will lower taxes by doing “the needed tax reform” by changing to two levels of taxation. Says it will save all Canadians money.
Says party can balance budget in two years by reducing government, cutting foreign aid and slashing corporate welfare.
Says debt is a tax. Says policies will increase investment in Canada.
Ed Fast of the Conservatives, the incumbent, goes next.
Starts by talking about moving to Abbotsford 37 years ago and seeing his kids and grandchildren born here.
Shifts to his last 14 years as MP and time as a cabinet minister under the Harper government.
Speaks of leading Canada’s trade agenda.
Pivots back to how he was elected as school board member and councillor.
“Over those years, you’ve trusted me to make tough decisions for you, the community, for the country. I don’t believe I’ve failed you.”
“I’ve led with courage, I’ve led with tact.”
Stephen Fowler of the Greens go next.
Talks about values of the Green Party.
“We need an honest, ethical, compassionate leadership,” he says.
Fowler says the status quo isn’t ideal. Says the country needs a party and a leader with a vision. Talks up Elizabeth May.
Now pivots to the dangers posed by climate change.
“We are headed down an unsurviveable trail and we need a course change.”
Seamus Heffernan of the Liberals up.
Talks about his background. It’s his first time running. He grew up in Newfoundland.
“We weren’t poor, but we certainly weren’t rich.”
Says parents impressed upon him education and service. Came to Abbotsford and studied at the University of the Fraser Valley. Aimed to work with troubled kids, but then moved to work with Jati Sidhu, the Liberal MP in Mission-Matsqui-Fraser Canyon.
Said he fell in love with the job and helping those who came for help
“It was the most deeply rewarding experience of my life.”
Madeleine Sauve of the NDP goes last.
Speaks about going to teach Emily Carr University and becoming engaged with her union and the need to address the precariousness of work.
She now works in film and televisions and continues to be involved in her union.
Says she couldn’t say no when asked to run because she wanted to continue as an “advocate and educator”
First question comes from moderator Douglas MacAdams. Asks about what each candidate’s party will deal with China as a rising power, and how they will address the prospects of investment in Canada by Chinese companies.
Alderking: CHP will develop other trade partners. Says Canada needs to be less-dependent on Chinese products and won’t put Chinese companies in charge of Canadian security. Says will reduce foreign ownership of Canadian companies.
Duncan: Says patent protection needs to be developed and protected, trade mechanisms must be protected and trade with other countries must be developed.
Fast: Relationship must be premised with trust, and strength. “Our relationship with China is in shambles and needs a complete reset.” China is second largest trading partner, so there are opportunities and risks. But U.S. is biggest. Huawei shouldn’t build 5G network, Fast says.
Fowler: Says two Canadians being held in China should be priority for Greens. Must “lever the situation” to bring those back. Says you can’t turn nose on second-biggest trading partner, but that negotiations should be premised on release of two Canadians.
Heffernan: Says Liberals are pro-free trade. Trudeau identified gap in trade with China. Says no evidence relationship is irreconcilable and is confident the issue will be resolved.
Sauve: Must hold fast to principles of human rights, dignity and democracy; say Canadian prisoners are important. Canada has history of diplomacy, she says.
Q: What will your party do to support young families and seniors with a viable housing market, and help the homeless?
Duncan: By giving affordability to citizens through tax reform and capital gains. “I don’t believe that extending mortgage terms will help.” Says will make things worse.
Fast: Affordability and housing affordability biggest issue at doorsteps. Say Conservatives will “fix the stress test,” extend mortgage periods. Says it will increase demand. Says federal surplus lands will be made available for housing. Says “tons” across country. Says will launch public inquiry into money laundering.
Fowler: housing affordability important. Says party will look at “how we are pricing our land.” Says wants to increase supportive housing and party will “look” at money laundering and stress test.
Heffernan: says housing isn’t “expensive so much as it is outrageous.” Says he may never be able to afford it. Says National Housing Strategy will try to fix that and government will review housing market. And says the government will. and he’s cut off
Sauve: Says NDP will “embrace the idea that housing is a human right.” Says housing affordability is hurting a lot of people. Says party will make large investments into social housing.
Alderking: Says CHP would move away from income and carbon taxes, and toward a “fair tax” that would be on what you spend. Says it encourages people “to save more and then to buy what they want.”
Q: What would you do to widen Highway 1?
Fast: Highway 1 is a “disaster.” Says would promote highway widening as an MP, and that he has a track record of delivering.
Fowler: Says freeway should be widened to three lanes, but no more. Says should focus on the community rail project pitched for between Surrey and Chilliwack, through Abbotsford.
Heffernan: Says all will agree on solution. Agrees it is “a disaster” and crippling area. Says Sidhu has brought investment to riding and there is a desire. But that the province is the hurdle. “We need to get the province on board, and right now the province has not shown that interest.”
Sauve: Says should widen highway and that it’s well overdue. Says greener options also have to be developed. Rail for the Valley is problematic because of the length of track and time it would take. Says electric train is needed, along with other transit improvements.
Alderking: Says Canada borrows money for infrastructure. Says CHP would create bank to give governments interest-free loans. Says country needs to provide its own money.
Duncan: On-ramp improvements are needed. Federal money should be used to improve those on-ramps. Says to consider “moving industry to where the folks are” and promoting working from home.
Fowler uses one of his cards: Goes to the Rail for the Valley plan. Says not everybody who goes to Chilliwack is going to Vancouver and that a community train would link cities on south side of the Fraser River.
Sauve: Responds and says she has spoken to Translink and Abbotsford Mayor Henry Braun. References the issues with a piece of that stretch of track. Says not a viable option.
Fowler uses his other card: Green and NDP battling over Rail for the Valley idea. Says the rail groups “have the right of way” to the corridor. Says Translink is ignoring group.
With those questions having been asked and answered by all candidates, your reporter will stop trying to transcribe candidates statements where they amount to a reciting of their party platforms, all of which are online. We’ll focus on local and unique interactions (like that, above, over community rail).
Q: How would you help tourism industry
Heffernan: Tourism industry will continue to prosper under Liberals, as it has.
Sauve: Says such big problems, industry already seems like it’s booming. Says there are opportunities to connect with other countries and visitors from other nations.
Alderking: Says tourism can allow the development of new partnerships with First Nations.
Duncan: PPC has no stated policy. Says elimination of capital gains would spur investment.
Fast: Eliminate carbon tax, include tourism in foreign trade talks, government should only impose environmental restrictions after consulting with recreational users, foster partnerships with First Nations.
Fowler: Carbon price necessary and people get the rebate. Widening tourism can be an issue and expose pristine wilderness to too much traffic.
Alderking uses response card: Some people use technology to snag campsites. Need to balance opportunities for foreign tourists with those for locals
Q: How would you implement senior’s strategy?
Sauve speaks of NDP healthcare and pharmacare platform policies.
Alderking says alternative medicine has promise and that some elderly people are “prescribed too many things.” Says country needs “better, holistic approach” to health care
Duncan says health care is primarily a provincial responsibility. Speaks about tax credit transfers to provinces.
Fast: says country will face challenged with baby boomers retiring. Speaks about platform promises to help seniors.
Fowler: also talks of his party’s platform
Heffernan: talks about working personally with MP who promoted National Senior Strategy.
Speaking of those platforms, here are links to each:
The Conservative Party doesn’t have a full platform available. Here’s there website.
Candidates are asked about the Mark Norman case and SNC-Lavalin.
Fast says the Mark Norman case is “one of the many, many scandals” voters must take under consideration.
Heffernan speaks to SNC-Lavalin. Says he doesn’t know what was in the Prime Minister heart and mind and said believed Trudeau had nation’s interest at heart. Gets heckled. Pushes back and says ministers can speak to attorneys-general about what happened. (We asked him about the SNC-Lavalin case yesterday and the PM’s justification. You can see his answer here.)
Fast responds. “It is never OK to break the law for some other purposes.” Says PM interfered in prosecutorial processes. “If 9,000 jobs allow him to break the law, what other conditions would allow him to break the law.” Says it undermines democracy. Biggest ovation tonight.
Duncan also uses one of his card. Speaks about a ruling on an LNG project.
Alderking also uses her card. Says steel industry jobs have gone to China. Says change of government needed.
Q: How will government promote small business.
Duncan returns to talking about capital gain taxes, something he’s done a few times tonight.
Fast says PM called small businesses tax cheats with changes. Says Conservatives would roll back all those changes.
Fowler speaks of party’s focus on building resilience of small businesses and promoting local enterprise and trade.
Heffernan says party has been doing well and has been promoting the ability of small businesses to reach export market
Sauve says NDP will look at tax reform and make life easier for small businessowners.
Alderking again speaks of her party’s “fair tax” proposal.
Q: How can the government help farmers?
Fast says farmers have had it tough. Says they need to be able to access new markets. Fowler says promote small farms. Heffernan says Fast is wrong and that trade relationships aren’t in shamble, he pivots to touting his government’s work on the files. Sauve speaks of her party’s plan to create a food strategy. Alderking says food security is key. Duncan says drop interprovincial trade barriers.
Q: How to protect and educate buyers on the problems growing pot at home can pose to the houses?
Fowler says government should drop the price of pot. Says outdoor growing should be promoted, rather than greenhouse growing.
Heffernan says supported move to legalize, but there have been bumps along the way. Says he has and will continue to raise issue with government. But says legalization was good. Someone says “Boo!” A couple others clap. And Heffernan notes with a smile that he’s the only one to be booed twice.
Sauve says she’s not expert on pot-growing, but that it’s a new industry and experts need to be brought in to deal with the issues. Can’t go back in time.
Alderking says mold is serious and cannabis growing should be carefully regulated.
Duncan says that law needs to be changed to allow growing outside, in public view, because it drives cannabis growing inside. Says decriminalization better approach than legalization. Says you can still get in trouble if you have over your personal limit.
Fast says “we’re not going to be recriminalizing marijuana.” Says rollout of legalization was a “disaster.” Says government would do a complete review of pot rules and legalization rollout. Says government will focus on health, safety, children, smell, and organized crime.
Heffernan responds with card: Says the Conservatives will “clutch their pearls and won’t do a damn thing about it.” Says you couldn’t find someone better to handle the file than the minister responsible, former Toronto police chief Bill Blair.
Q: What do you do about deficit, while still investing in infrastructure and others
Heffernan leaning into the fact that he is up against it with this crowd. “I for one am not a slavish devotee to the notion that deficits really, really matter in the long run.” Says government not like a business and talks about Canada’s economic success under the current government.
Sauve says more needs to go to services that help ordinary people.
Alderking says deficits will cost children. Speaks of her party’s fair tax.
Duncan says rising deficit is “unacceptable.” Says “defund” CBC.
Fast says Liberals don’t care about deficits. Says Trudeau broke promise to balance budget by 2019. Says spending is unsustainable.
Heffernan uses what may be his last card: Says Conservatives will give rich a massive tax break “and then when it all goes horribly wrong” says government will gut services that help ordinary Canadians.
Sauve jumps in too. Says economy is health when we have a “modest deficit.” Says Harper government also ran a deficit so it’s “rich” for Fast to deride Liberals.
Fowler gets his turn. Says his party is fiscally conservative, but says that when you need to spend it, you spend it. Says NDP and Green didn’t create debt. “The Liberals and the Conservatives” created it. Fowler says tax breaks didn’t stimulate economy.
Q: How to help students? (Your reporter missed the full question)
Sauve talks about Green New Deal proposals and student loan assistance.
Alderking talks about local innovation is successful and that Canada must protect inventions coming from universities.
Duncan says education is a provincial jurisdiction, but that trades are important. Says high schoolers need more choices. “University is not the end-all be all.”
Fast says students abroad need to be able to use their credentials, talks about promoting international education, and increasing government’s contribution towards RESPs.
Fowler talks about being a teacher. Says trades are important. International students are important, need to help them get jobs to encourage them to stay.
Heffernan asks how many teachers on panel. Says “appropriately all on the left-hand side.” Laughter. Heffernan and Fowler have brought some levity to the evening. Talks about his party’s various platform promises to students and to promote international education
Q: How to break down internal trade barriers?
Alderking said trade should be like freedom of movement within country.
Duncan says PPC policy is to “eliminate it.” Says it is protectionism. “These trade barriers are another form of tax on a different name that affect the affordability of everyone in this room.”
Fast says that to negotiate an agreement, the provinces and federal government have to get together. “When you elect a Conservative government it is much more likely you have like-minded governments across the country.” Points to Conservative governments in an increasing number of provinces now.
Fowler says “I’ve heard this since I was a kid.” Alludes to his answer on the deficit blaming it on other parties.
Heffernan says that if reducing interprovincial trade barriers depends on like-minded Conservative governments, you’ll have to move soon before the next Ontario election. (He’s alluding to the Doug Ford government’s unpopularity).
Sauve says provinces must agree on trade. “We should be able to collaborate and build consensus.”
Q: All parties want more efficient housing. How to promote that while “protecting housing affordability?”
Duncan: Don’t have anything as far as the PPC goes. But as a construction guy, it’s not an easy job to retrofit a building. Need to tear down and build new ones.
Fast: key is to incentivize Canadians. Green homes tax credit will help. Opposed to changes to the national building code.
Fowler: Technology is changing incredibly fast. Saving energy will pay for itself eventually.
Heffernan talks about offering loans and energy audits to those who want to upgrade homes.
Sauve talks about being opposed to Trans Mountain Pipeline and will help municipalities. Carbon tax money will be used towards a retrofit program.
Alderking says can do a lot with education.
Duncan uses card to say geothermal walls would help. “I think it’s a challenge and also think we can’t forget we live in a northern climate.”
Fast uses another card. (Many have a bunch of them left and this is looking like the last question.)
Says eliminating carbon taxes, but “shifting to technology.” Fast talking about his party’s environmental promises. We asked him about it yesterday
Heffernan: “The carbon tax is a good idea and it works.” Economists and others say it works. In B.C., small emission increase comes despite big increases in population and economy.
“It blows my mind that I have to explain to conservatives that taxing something makes them use it smarter and better than it did before.”
Biggest applause line of the night for him
Fast back: Paris targets are absolute.
“Carbon taxes work in theory” but not in political environment with “tax and spend” Liberals.
Heffernan: Fast says carbon storage is way forward, but no evidence that would work. Heffernan says that if the Conservatives get hold on climate policy, “emissions are going to rise very, very quickly.”
Fowler now with a card. Says their plan is a “cap and dividend” plan, with money going back to voters, not into general revenue.
Heffernan begs a card from Sauve. Gets high-five.
Says nobody has seen Conservative platform on climate change. As he talks, Fast begs card from Locke Duncan to his right. Heffernan speaks about the “insufficient” Conservative party plan.
Fast now goes. Talks about the Conservatives website for its climate change plan. Says UN says carbon capture and storage is a promising way to control carbon.
Alderking only one left with card, I think. She says carbon causes things to grow. Says parts of the Sahara has “become a fertile grassland.” Some cheer in the back, (although the Sahara continues to grow).
Closing statements are up next. First, Douglas MacAdams talks about how format has moved to more orderly format, as opposed to people coming to microphone. “We had blood and guts,” MacAdams says.
“We had rather politely delivered blood and guts from this group.”
Closing statements are just one minute.
Alderking talks about property rights. Says they need to be “enshrined” in the Charter of Rights and Freedoms. Adds corruption and waste must be cleaned up.
Duncan: Directs people to PPC’s website. Says candidates want Canada “continue to be free.”
Fast says he has a “blood and guts” closing, but that he tossed it because of good debate. Tells people to consider who will make best leader, and how past four years have been.
Fowler talks about passion among candidates. Talks about last night’s debate and says two people were vying for power. Says people should “vote for who you want to vote for.” And says the Green is the only party for those whose number one priority is climate change.
Heffernan says “just get out and vote.” Says, like Fast, voters should reflect on last four years. Points to unemployment rate and child poverty decreases. Says you can “make fun” of Trudeau, but doesn’t change record.
Sauve urges people to attend vigil on Oct. 13 for youth killed in gang violence. Cites endorsement by some students at a recent high school event.
And there you have it. We’ll have a more condensed recap in Friday’s paper. Good night.