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Federal election candidates grilled by Rotarians

NDP candidate Gwen O
NDP candidate Gwen O'Mahony speaks during the all-candidates meeting at Wednesday's Rotary lunch at the Best Western.
— image credit: JENNA HAUCK/ PROGRESS

Candidates running in the federal election for the mainstream political parties in Chilliwack-Fraser Canyon weren't cut any slack in their first all-candidates meeting hosted by the Wednesday Rotary Club.

Only the candidate for the fringe Western Block Party was spared the hard questions.

Conservative candidate Mark Strahl was asked about his "tainted" nomination and his apparent lack of "real world" business experience.

Liberal candidate Diane Janzen was asked how she could be "truly a Liberal" with her Christian faith and her small-c conservatism.

New Democratic candidate Gwen O'Mahony was asked about her party's opposition to the purchase of fighter jets when Canadians are sending their sons and daughters "into harm's way" overseas.

Western Block candidate Clive Edwards pretty much had a clear run at the meeting to present his separatist views unquestioned.

Two remaining candidates, Jamie Hoskins for the Green Party and Dorothy-Jean O'Donnell for the Marxist-Leninist Party, did not respond to invitations to attend the noon-hour meeting.

About his nomination, Strahl pointed out that he was the only candidate at the Rotary meeting who had actually been chosen by voting party members.

"I'm the only candidate at the table that went through a nomination process," he said.

Strahl agreed that most of his working life has been spent in the political world, the last seven years in Conservative MP Randy Kamp's constituency office.

"(But) my family is full of entrepreneurs, and I'm certainly aware of the challenges they face," he said.

Strahl also said his experience included working with businesses that came to Kamp's office trying to "claw through government red tape."

"I've seen the the problems government can create for businesses," he said.

Janzen defended her mix of fiscal conservatism and "progressive" social values, and her Christian faith.

"I make no apologies for the fact that I'm a Christian," she said, adding that she sees "no problem with being a Liberal as well as a Christian."

But Janzen also said she would defy Liberal Party policy, if it meant voting against her conscience.

"I vote my conscience in all cases," she said. "Am I a Liberal, yes. Am I a sheep, no."

Janzen said she "respects the right of everyone" to make their own choices, but she personally has chosen not to support abortion or euthanasia.

O'Mahony said New Democrats support the military, but the party's problem with the fighter jets is the unknown cost.

"Would you as a business man make a large purchase without knowing the full cost?" she asked.

"It's not that we don't support the military," she said. "The NDP's problem (with the fighter jets) is we don't know the full cost."

She also questioned Canada's new military direction as "frontline battle" troops, instead of the "peacekeeper" role of the past.

Edwards, whose party is running only five candidates in the election, said the Western Block obviously won't be forming the next government, but if voters in the riding sent him to Ottawa as their MP, they'd have the satisfaction of knowing he'd be representing their views, not the other way around.

"I don't understand why we're fighting overseas," he said, in response to the question about jet fighters and military spending.

 

"I believe we are actually being conned into going overseas and killing other people in their homeland," he said.

 

 

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