A full house of over 150 people came to North Delta Evangelical Free Church Saturday morning for a federal candidates’ meeting.
Four of the seven candidates running in Delta attended the meeting, co-sponsored by Delta Residents Association and the Council of Canadians. Not attending was Conservative candidate Tanya Corbet, who had earlier confirmed she would attend but cancelled two days before the meeting, and recently announced independent candidates Amarit Bains or Tony Bennett.
The candidates gave opening and closing statements and each responded to questions posed by moderator Susan Spratt, chapter chair of the Delta-Richmond Council of Canadians. The questions came from members of the public to organizers via e-mail, and were often combinations of several questions posed on the same topic.
The complete meeting will be posted online on the Delta Residents Association page at groupspaces.com. Those unable to attend can see responses from the four candidates who did attend. They were Randy Anderson-Fennell of the NDP, Angelina Ireland of the Peoples’ Party of Canada, Craig DeCraene of the Green Party and incumbent Liberal Carla Qualtrough.
The questions covered both local and national topics. On the local issues, all four candidates had responses tailored to Delta, while on national issues, both DeCraene and Anderson-Fennell often responded by simply reading party policy.
Anderson-Fennell cited his strong labour background and said he wants to stand up for Canadians who are falling behind. His party is promising a national pharmacare program, free dental care for families earning less than $70,000 and increased taxes on the wealthy.
Qualtrough said “Delta is the very heart of Canada” and she has been honoured to represent it for the past four years as both an MP and cabinet minister.
“I know what Canada represents to the world, and I also know about exclusion,” said the human rights lawyer and former Paralympic swimmer.
DeCraene said he has lived on Delta for three and a half years and is running primarily because he supports party leader Elizabeth May and wants to see the party gain more votes.
“Voting for the Greens is not a wasted vote. A higher total number of votes gives her more moral authority in Parliament, especially in a minority situation,” he said.
Ireland is a 10-year Delta resident who has been active with the Rotary Club of Ladner and Delta Hospice Society. She said her party has come a long way since being formed a year ago, with candidates in almost every riding in the country, and noted that its candidates have backgrounds in all parties. She was a Conservative and left the party after it determined who the Delta candidate would be without an open nomination battle.
Potential federal contributions to replacing the congested George Massey Tunnel came up during Saturday’s meeting.
Ireland said roads and bridges are a provincial responsibility, and “it is not fair to make it a national issue.” She said her party believes in reducing taxes so that people have more money in their pockets, and not contributing to projects outside federal responsibility is one way to keep taxes low.
Anderson-Fennell said the NDP “believes the federal government should be able to invest in various projects” by partnering with other levels of government and First Nations. He cited community benefit agreements, instituted by the NDP provincial government, as a way to train local workers for skilled jobs.
Qualtrough said the Liberals have promised to contribute to the Massey Tunnel replacement project, and it is up to the province to take advantage of that offer. She noted that Highway 99 connects directly to the United States and also to the Vancouver Airport, making it more than a local project, adding the tunnel needs replacing.
“The money is there. It is a provincial asset, and they (the province) have to decide what kind of crossing they want.”
DeCraene said the Green Party is against new roads and bridges being constructed, but that he does agree that existing infrastructure — including the Massey Tunnel — should be replaced.
Moderator Spratt asked what candidates would do about the “climate emergency” and said “we need to stand up with young people” who took part in the “climate strike” on Friday (Sept. 27).
Qualtrough said “kids are calling us adults out” and her party wants Canada to get to net zero emissions by 2050. It is also prepared to ban single-use plastics by 2021 and to conserve more lands in a natural state.
DeCraene said his party opposes twinning the Trans Mountain oil pipeline and B.C.’s approval of an LNG plant.
“We need to transition away from fossil fuels as soon as possible.”
Ireland said “there is not a climate emergency,” to scattered boos from the audience.
“I do not want children to be exploited for any political cause. The climate will continue to change as it has for millions of years. The correlation between carbon and temperatures does not exist. Science has become politicized.”
Anderson-Fennell said the issue is “very personal” for him, as members of his family were forced from their home and came to live with him during the destructive 2017 B.C. wildfires.
“We need to stop subsidizing giant oil companies.”
The use of agricultural land for growing marijuana was put to the candidates.
DeCraene said land within the Agricultural Land Reserve should only be used to grow food. He called on Health Canada to do more to deal with the smell emanating from greenhouses used to produce marijuana.
Ireland said the federal government has “nothing to do with ALR lands” and “legalization of marijuana was a terrible idea.” However, she says Canada is now stuck with the change made by the Liberal government.
“What can we do? Probably nothing.”
Anderson-Fennell said he did not have an answer.
Qualtrough said the federal government needs to do a better job of enforcing Health Canada regulations about odour from marijuana production, and ”we need to protect the food supply.”
The federal government’s move to reduce the length of time that organizations can receive Canada Summer Jobs grants, prompting a question on that topic. It was noted by Spratt that this has caused some hardship to non-profit organizations.
Qualtrough said the program is the only one that MPs have direct responsibility for. What she has done is have organizations apply for two grants, so some students are funded for eight weeks, the current length of the program, and then again under another grant for four more weeks, adding not all MPs have approached the challenge that way. She said the idea of shortening the length of time of the grants is to try and get more students involved, so they can gain work experience.
Ireland said such programs are important, but her party has concerns that the Liberal government excluded some organizations from being eligible for such grants.
“They should not have to sign attestation statements, as the Liberal government (made them do),” she said.
Other questions were related to balancing the budget, post-secondary education, protecting wild salmon stocks, support for seniors, reconciliation, dealing with rising sea levels in low-lying areas and national disability legislation.
Three more all-candidate meetings are currently scheduled for Delta. The Delta Chamber of Commerce is hosting a pair of events — the first at North Delta Secondary on Monday, Sept. 30 and the second at the Genesis Theatre in Ladner on Wednesday, Oct. 9. Both meetings take place from 6 to 8:45 p.m. Questions for the candidates can be submitted in advance by e-mail (firstname.lastname@example.org), phone (604-946-4232), by mail or in person (6201 60th Ave., V4K 4E2). Written questions will also be accepted from the floor.
On Thursday, Oct. 12, a group of residents has organized an all-candidates meeting focusing on environmental issues as part of the nation 100 Debates on the Environment campaign. The meeting is scheduled to take place in Tsawwassen at KinVillage Community Centre (5430 10th Ave.) from 6:30 to 8:30 p.m.