Roughly 400 students at Tamanawis Secondary participated in the political process Tuesday, watching the four candidates in the Surrey-Newton riding answer questions in an all-candidates forum hosted by the school.
The forum featured questions prepared by the school’s social studies students to be asked directly to one of the candidates. Follow-up comments were then permitted.
The candidates included incumbent Member of Parliament Jinny Sims of the NDP, former Surrey-Newton MP Sukh Dhaliwal of the Liberal party, Harpreet Singh of the Conservatives and Tamanawis graduate Pam Sangha of the Green party.
Sangha was asked what could be done to “make Surrey a safer place” while struggling with gang-related violence.
“How many of you have heard gunshots, how many of you are jaded to that fact, like it’s not even a thing anymore? How terrifying is that?” asked Sangha.
“We need to bring back preventative measures in elementary and high schools; we need mentors and more after-school programs.
“Let’s legalize marijuana, let’s implement mentorship programs, let’s bring back community, let’s focus on community.”
Singh directed some blame towards Sims, noting crime is down across the country but rising in Newton.
“Why is that?” he asked. “Over the past four years, the MP has has talked about it and done nothing about it.”
“I find it rather disingenuous that somebody from the governing party point the finger to the official Opposition,” replied Sims. “When you can check Parliament records, you see I am one of the most outspoken people (on the gang issue). There’s no magic pill, but we need immediate policing. And despite the fact the (government) said the police were here, the (additional) 100 are still not here.”
Dhaliwal criticized the federal government for building more jails and spending $130,000 a year to incarcerate first-time offenders.
“We can invest that money in young people and the societies and organizations that play key roles in their lives,” he said. “I’ve always supported tough-on-crime legislation. But at the same time, I’ve stood for and asked for more programs.”
Singh was asked what the Conservatives could do to assist Surrey “with their infrastructure and transportation challenges.”
Singh referred to the announcement by the Conservatives Monday of a $700-million commitment to a proposed $2.1-billion light rail network in Surrey, adding Canada is leading G7 nations in infrastructure projects.
“Compared to Vancouver, we’re lacking in road infrastructure and public transit,” said Sims, adding the NDP would allocate $1.3 billion a year to cities for infrastructure and transit, as well as an additional one cent per litre in gas taxes collected.
Dhaliwal noted the Liberals have committed to spending $125 billion over 10 years on infrastructure, $120 million of which is for public transit.
The Green party will spend $6.4 billion a year on municipal infrastructure, said Sangha, who slammed the idea of light rail for Surrey.
“It’s a mistake,” she said. “A giant metropolis like Surrey deserves SkyTrain. I’m tired of Surrey getting screwed by the whole transit system.”
The federal election is Monday, Oct. 19.