B.C.’s provincial election touched down in Cloverdale Monday night, when candidates for two ridings took part in a forum organized by the Surrey Library Board.
Pipelines, B.C.’s Carbon Tax, the environment, transit, post secondary education and the economy were just a sampling of the issues on voters’ minds at the May 6 forum.
Five candidates representing Surrey-Cloverdale and Surrey-White Rock answered questions from youth, followed by a series of questions from the floor, making for a wide range of topics.
Early on, candidates were asked if elected, what they would do to make post secondary education more affordable.
Conservative Howard Wu, a technology entrepreneur running in Surrey-Cloverdale, said he valued skills learned inside and outside of a traditional post secondary setting.
“In my line of work, in my hiring process, we definitely see a lot of talented web developers and programmers who are maybe high school educated,” he said, adding his party supports making post secondary education more affordable.
Liberal Stephanie Cadieux, current MLA for Surrey-Panorama who’s running in Surrey-Cloverdale, pointed to her party’s track record over the past 12 years, which has seen the addition of 32,000 post secondary seats and seven universities.
“We did that because we think it’s important for students to go to school close to home. One, it’s less expensive, and two, because people tend to stay and work where they train.”
When candidates were asked what they would do to improve recreational opportunities in Surrey, several pointed out that facilities like rec centres and community programming fall under municipal jurisdiction, although Cadieux said she’s already spoken with Surrey’s mayor and council to see what the province can do in terms of targeted investment here.
“I think we have a unique situation in Cloverdale right now,” Cadieux said, referring to rapid residential growth in Clayton.
NDP candidate Harry Kooner, who works for the City of Surrey, added he thinks the province has to provide better funding to cities. “Cloverdale doesn’t have an indoor pool,” he said.
Green Party candidate for Surrey-White Rock Don Pitcairn earned a few laughs when the questions turned to environmental protection. “As you all know, the B.C. Green Party is really getting into green issues these days. I hope that’s not a news flash,” he said, adding the environment is “the most valuable resource we have.”
Wu said he opposes B.C.’s Carbon Tax – introduced by the Liberals. “Those sort of policies are used to control citizen’s behaviour,” he said, adding the Conservatives have promised to scrap it. “It’s an unjust tax.”
Susan Keeping, NDP candidate for Surrey-White Rock, said the carbon tax is revenue neutral, and agreed with fellow NDP candidate Kooner, who suggested reinvesting it to pay for rapid transit, something that he believes is desperately needed in Surrey.
Keeping would also like it spent on schools and supporting seniors and people with disabilities.
Cadieux said the tax was kept revenue neutral, something that’s benefited the taxpayers. “You are paying less in taxes today because of the carbon tax.”
The Liberals plan to freeze the tax for five years to let the rest of the world catch up in implementing a similar tax, she added.
As aspiring MLAs, candidates were asked what they feel is the most important quality an MLA should have to best represent the riding.
“When you vote for me, I become your MLA,” Pitcairn said. “I serve you. I do not serve the B.C. Green Party.”
Wu said his openness and honesty would serve constituents well.
Cadieux said it’s her ability to listen, something she’s learned over the past four years as a cabinet minister who’s held four different portfolios. The most important quality of an MLA is “Listening and asking penetrating questions to get to the bottom of what a constituent is asking,” she said.
The candidates were also asked whether they support the legalization of marijuana. The NDP and Liberal candidates stuck to their party’s stances, that it’s a federal issue.
Green Pitcairn said he supported legalization, arguing that the issue is more pressing than ever considering neighbouring Washington state gone the legalization route, something that could contribute to bootlegging. “We need to tax it, we need to control it, just like every other fun thing in life,” he said.
“I do not support the legalization of marijuana,” Conservative Wu said. To him, it’s a moral issue. “It’s not because I’m against more sales of Doritos. We’ve got enough ‘fun stuff’ in society.”
Despite sunny spring weather, the Rosa Robinson Room at the Cloverdale Library was filled to capacity, with the standing room only crowd spilling out into the family history section of the upper gallery.
The all candidates meeting was organized by Surrey Libraries.
“The library isn’t just a place for people to get books,” Surrey Library board chair Linda Stromberg said, citing the library system’s non-partisan status as a good fit with hosting an all candidate’s meeting.
“We thought it would be a wonderful opportunity to have community engagement.”