Those seeking to be the Member of Parliament for Mission-Matsqui-Fraser Canyon 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 Brad Vis; Liberal Jati Sidhu; the NDP’s Michael Nenn; Nick Csaszar of the People’s Party; and John Kidder of the Green Party.
While you wait for the meeting to begin, find out more about the candidates here. You can also see some of the video interviews we have done this week. Three more candidates will be interviewed tomorrow.
Follow along and refresh this story regularly to read what the candidates are saying on the issues. Please forgive spelling and grammar lapses. There will be a lot of typing over the next two hours.
The forum is about to get started. The crowd here is very sparse – probably one-third of what Tuesday’s garnered for the Abbotsford riding. There are probably only 5o or so in the audience. Melinda Friesen is the moderator.
Candidate opening statements begin.
The PPC’s Julius (Nick) Csaszar goes first: Speaks about himself. “I’m just a small town boy who made good. ” Says the opportunities he had aren’t there anymore, and says affordability been eroded. Says Canadians have grown more pessimistic. Says other parties and leaders all offer “a different colour of kool-aid.”
Says you will only get change if you vote for it, and that large vote for PPC would send a message to Ottawa. “Elect me, elect us, and we will fight for you.
John Kidder of the Greens goes next. Introduces himself, says he owned technology companies, now lives in Ashcroft where he has been “quiet.” Talks about marrying Elizabeth May. “That changed the whole ‘quiet’ part.”
References income figures referred to by Csaszar. Says Canada is one of the richest companies in the world, and that tax burdens should be shifted towards the well-off.
“The real issue facing us all, and certainly facing our children … is the true crisis of global warming. Says elders are responsible for dealing with that issue.
“This is the social justice issue of our time.”
Kidder speaks VERY quickly, which seems likely to allow him to cram more stuff into his allotted time tonight.
Michael Nenn of the NDP is next. Says he is running because “I’m concerned about where we are in society today.”
Says Liberals and Conservatives have left more people behind, and talks about tax breaks for the richest people.
“It’s just not fair. There’s an imbalance that has been created.”
Talks about child and senior poverty, gender gap between men and women.
“It’s 2019. It’s not 1919, and I think we can do better.” Says government needs to invest in health care and talks about his party’s pharmacare program.
Jati Sidhu of the Liberals on now.
Talks about long history in the region. Has lived in the area for 45 years.
Sidhu is the sitting MP and says he wants to continue.
Boasts of the Liberal’s record and new programs, including the National Housing Strategy and child care benefit program.
Says he supports the widening of Highway 1.
Conservatives’ Brad Vis up last.
Talks about roaming the area over the last year.
Says he’s had many conversations
“For the average family it’s hard to get ahead these days.”
Says parents are concerned about their kids’ safety, and says small businesses have suffered under the Liberals’ tax changes.
“Parents and families want a fair, orderly immigration system.”
Finishes with concerns about the Fraser River and need to protect salmon runs and prevent floods.
NOTE: Like on Tuesday, this run-down will focus on specifics to this debate, rather than recitations of pieces of each party’s platform.
Hare are links to each platform
The Conservative Party still has yet to make its full platform available. Here’s their website.
Q: What will your party do to help people attain housing?
Csaszar: Says there is a supply problem. Says fewer immigrants will place less pressure on the housing market. Blames municipal and provincial governments for limiting supply. Says federal government should ease those restrictions.
Kidder: Says municipal levels should be part of the national debate. Says not enough time in a minute to go through the policies. “We propose to spend a lot of housing on co-op housing and co-housing.”
Nenn: Says root causes and systemic issues must be tackled. “When I was young we didn’t have tent cities.” Says his party would build a half-million affordable housing over 10 years. Pharmacare would reduce costs to families, and says party would extend mortgages to 30 years for first-time homeowners.
Sidhu: Talks about his party’s first-time homebuyers’ incentive, housing strategy and other work to build homes. Says party will fully implement first-time homebuyers’ incentive and will put vacancy tax in place for non-Canadians.
Vis: Says his party would “fix the mortgage stress test,” increase amortization period for first-time homebuyers, launch money laundering inquiry, and make federal lands available for development.
Q: What will party do about small-business taxes
Kidder says small businesses shouldn’t have to pay more taxes. Says party has been told large companies will try to evade taxes. Hails small businesses and talks about his own past as a small business owner. “It’s the heart of what this country is about.”
Nenn: Protecting small businesses is key to NDP. Says pharmacare plan will help businesses. “We’re here to support businesses.” Nenn says many small businesses have disappeared.
Sidhu: Talks about cutting small business taxes and saving them money. Says his government has signed more trade deals and incentives to small business owners.
Vis says Liberal changes has required small businesses to spend money to redo their plans. Talks about his party’s own incentives and plans. The room, like on Tuesday, is quite pro-Conservative.
Csaszar talks about lowering small business tax and eliminating capital gains tax. Says the PPC wants to renegotiate free trade agreements.
Q: What would you do to allow more people to buy homes?
Nenn: Pharmacare plan will help people with affordability issues.
Sidhu: Notes Fraser Valley house sales have increased the last month. Says that’s because of new jobs being created and tax cuts by the Liberals.
Vis: Says Conservatives would fix stress test for new owners, rescind for renewals
Csaszar says the cost of doing business and regulations drive prices up.
Kidder says stress test is going in the wrong direction and that the lenders should be determining who can afford homes and that the banks should be more regulated. “We think the lenders have been doing a disservice to the general population.”
Q: What would you do to help farmers?
Vis: tarrif barriers must be removed. “We have to be hard on China.”
Csaszar: China needs to be taken to task. Also talks about party’s small business policies
Kidder: We will support supply management and local food systems. Canada imports too much food. Notes climate change is increasing uncertainties for farmers. “If we don’t deal with it now and get a handle on it now, we will lose the opportunity to deal with it in the future.”
Nenn: NDP has a national food strategy and is committed to protecting supply management. Says it was opened up by the Liberals, referring to changes in recent trade deals.
Sidhu says the government has spent money to help farmers and is improving internet access for rural areas. Talks about trade deals signed by the Liberals.
Your reporter has been briefly side-tracked. A serious accident near here has closed down part of Old Yale Road.
Candidates have been asked about marijuana and problems with pot being grown in homes.
Kidder is talking about how marijuana should be grown outside and that the country should “get artisans back in the medical marijuana business.”
Sidhu says pot shouldn’t be grown in houses, and says he brought it up repeatedly, but that the response was that it was like brewing beer.
Vis says Liberals botched the roll-out and the Conservatives would fix it.
Q: How would your party get infrastructure built in co-ordination with other governments?
Kidder: Greens would form “council of Canadian governments.” Having governments compete for “tiny grants” is bad. Block funding would be better, and left with Federation of Canadian Municipalities.
Nenn says rules have downloaded responsibility onto municipalities. NDP says companies and the rich will pay and go towards infrastructure projects like the pipeline between Mission and Abbotsford.
Sidhu says feds listen to provinces and municipalities. Sidhu says the provinces are the ones who must initiate projects like Highway 1 widening. Says sewer line was funded on the demand of Mission, but the price has gone up.
Vis says Conservatives want to honour contracts, and will prioritize regional projects including the expansion of Highway 1.
Csaszar: Says infrastructure is critical to people’s prosperity. Says party will make “serious, serious investments.” Says projects that serve “one little tiny community” might not be ideal, but can be lumped in with others.
Sidhu is using one of his rebuttal cards.
“Highway expansion to Whatcom. I promise to you today, the day the B.C. government is ready to put their fair share – 33 per cent – in, within a month we’ll come with 50 per cent to make it six lanes all the way to Whatcom.”
Nenn says public transportation must be expanded. Notes he commutes to North Vancouver. And that will help. Says commutes have a large cost.
Nenn is asked an audience question about his party’s pharmacare plan. Recites his party’s pharmacare platform proposal. (Reminder, we’ve linked to each party’s platform above.) Says the proposal will amount to a tax cut.
Sidhu notes that his party brought in the medicare program. Says pharmacare recommendations have been made and his party “will put forward pharmacare by the end of 2021.” Says a prescription will cost $2. Says lack of drugs has costs when people don’t take medicine and end up in hospital.
Vis says Liberals have been promising for many previous elections, but haven’t followed through. Says Conservatives aren’t promising pharmacare, but that provinces could help situation if they got together and bought drugs in bulk
Csaszar says Canada Health Act should be amended to adopt the “European model.” Says it will create “public-private” care. Says it will come with pharmacare plan.
Kidder says the Liberals’ introduction of medicare was prompted by the Liberals being in a minority government and forced to do so. Says the same is true for pharmacare and climate change. “They will not do anything about it until they are forced to.”
Q: What would your question do to reduce internal trade barriers?
Sidhu says work has already been done on it. He says NAFTA will help trade to the U.S. Says barriers within Canada should be broken down through talk.
Vis: Conservatives have long advocated better interprovincial trade. “We live in a federation and provinces have a role in some of these things too.” Says provinces can step up and do more.
Csaszar says PPC leader has pledged to break down barriers. Says if provinces don’t agree to do so, the federal government should take action on its own. Csaszar says Canada isn’t like the U.S.
Kidder says Canada is a confederation, and says trade agreements have increased dependency on the U.S. Kidder says interprovincial barriers should be gotten rid of. He says on climate change, negotiating with provinces has been said to do a lot of time. Says things can be fixed sooner than that.
Nenn says NDP committed to “fair trade deals” whether it’s internationally or between provinces. “It’s about fairness.” Says he sees Ed Fast in the crowd, and says the agreement Canada signed with China was not a democratic process.
“That’s hogwash,” Fast yells from the crowd.
Vis wants to rebut.
Nenn jaws toward Fast. Mutters a profanity referring to Fast.
Vis pleads for calm. Gets to speak, talking about Canada’s trade deal with China. Says deal supports businesses exporting products abroad.
Nenn uses rebuttal. Apologizes for “a little bit of an outburst.” Says temporary foreign workers in the north don’t help workers.
Q: What is your position on pipeline?
Vis says party supports Trans Mountain pipeline. Says rescinding the carbon tax could bring down cost of gas.
Csaszar says party wants to rescind carbon tax and “build pipelines everywhere.”
Kidder says investing in clean energy is important. Says doing so will transform economy and put people to work.
Nenn says spending money on pipeline wasn’t good move by Liberals. Says electric vehicles are important and that there needs to be transition to clean economy. Says subsidies to gas companies should be stopped.
Sidhu says government is expected to make money on pipeline and will spend money on renewable energy.
Kidder rebuts: Says there are three myths about pipeline. Says if it would be profitable, the private sector would have bought it. Says expanding market won’t raise money for it. Adds there is no demand in China.
A break follows
Q: How would you spur innovation and clean technology?
Csaszar: Reform immigration with emphasis on economic and skilled immigrants.
Kidder: Talks about having raised money and having six patents. Says tech companies hit a “funding gap.”
Nenn says party wants to support s all tech companies.
Sidhu says his government has focused on providing more places with high-speed internet.
Vis says his party will give tax incentives to those investing in clean technology.
Q to Vis: How to solve gang problem?
Vis says Archway Community Services and others need resources to help youth-at-risk. Says crown prosecutors can more easily determine if suspects are in a gang.
Kidder uses his card to talk. Says lots of talk about punishment, but that there is a lot of financial incentive for kids to enter gangs. Says legalizing drugs will address that.
Sidhu says he has served on police board and says government has put money towards anti-gang programs.
Vis says marijuana has been legalized, but illegal grow-ops are still thriving.
Csaszar says he owns a gun, and says tougher laws are needed for those who own an illegal loaded gun.
Nenn says the U.S. has the world’s highest incarceration rates, and that isn’t solving crime. Says prevention most important, and talks about need to invest in education.
Csaszar says feel-good strategies don’t solve the problems with dangerous criminals. Says only jailing them will fix problem.
Q: Immigration system is burdensome. How to make it easier for businesses to access foreign workers?
Kidder: stand for increased immigration to Canada, and says safe third-party agreement with the U.S. should be scrapped. Says people who come as temporary foreign workers should be able to apply for citizenship.
Nenn says “What we need is a compassionate, fair immigration system.” Says immigrants has made Canada what it is. Says NDP wants to improve credential recognition and improve family reunification.
Sidhu says that as an immigrant himself, he understands importance of immigration. Points to the northern territories, says the country needs more people. “We need immigration, but on a permanent basis.”
Vis says that confidence in immigration system has declined under the Liberals. Says party wants to focus on skill-recognition. Says jobs here should align with immigrants. Adds his party “strongly believes in family reunification as well.”
Csaszar says party wants to increase ratio of economic immigrants. Talks about companies needing to have “skin in the game.” Says universities also need to get involved.
Q: How would you improve air transportation?
Nenn says NDP would support small businesses and the technology sector.
Sidhu says air transportation vital for business.
Vis says Canadians pay some of the highest airline costs and the government could increase the number of airline carriers. Says he would like to see more competition.
Csaszar says his party “would privatize every single airport in the country.” Says airline fuel taxes would also go down if carbon tax rescinded.
Kidder says more carriers should be allowed, but innovation is key. Talks about Harbour Air soon flying electric planes. “All of this is changing so rapidly.”
Sidhu interjects: Says the government “may” introduce passenger rights legislation to ensure passengers are taken care of.
Q: What training initiatives will your party support to help economy and youth?
Sidhu talks about youth employment strategy
Vis: helping small business will ensure they will hire young people.
Csaszar says education is a provincial jurisdiction and says industry can work with universities and trade schools.
Kidder says ditching tuition fees and investing in education would be a terrific investment.
Nenn says NDP wants to cancel federal student loan debt, and integrate post-secondary education with K-12 system.
Your reporter missed the question, but candidates are talking about trade deals.
Vis says free trade agreements can be expanded, points to one signed by Ed Fast.
Csaszar says competent people needed to negotiate deals. Says relationships need to be built. Talks about Maxime Bernier’s past and skills.
Kidder says need to get out of old markets and stop exporting fossil fuels. Says trade deals are imbalanced. “We can process resources here. Add value to resources here.”
Nenn says trade is essential but “fair trade” is needed. Talks about “secret deals made in secret organizations.” Says people should ask if they’re better off now than 20 years ago. Says full disclosure necessary.
Sidhu says “we are a trading nation.” Talks about trade deals signed by the Liberal government. Says there is a job shortage in many companies.
Vis using last rebuttal card: talking about how Canada exports services and number of engineers who work here and provide services elsewhere.
Q: To Csaszar, why does your climate deny the “climate emergency.”
Csaszar says science “doesn’t operate on a consensus.” Says climate is changing but models have been wrong. Talks about a Russian model. “Science, that’s what matters here.”
Kidder interjects: Talks about the intergovernmental panel on climate change composed of university professors having found climate change to be real and man-made. Suggests Csaszar is trumpeting a “grand conspiracy.”
Q: How would you address flooding?
Csaszar says dike system is deteriorating. Says commitment needs to be made now, and funding must be made available. Should be looked at nationally.
Kidder says the river system vital to area. Says national infrastructure flood is necessary. Says flooding risk and fire risk need to addressed. Says changes are coming because “science tells us they’re coming.”
Nenn says protecting rivers important. Says open-water fish farms are bad.
Sidhu says he has worked on the issue as an MP and with other local politicians.
Vis says the local flood risk doesn’t receive enough attention. “We need to invest in critical infrastructure.”
Vis asks for trust of voters.
Sidhu says being MP has been highlight of life and wants to continue work.
Nenn asks people to consider if two main parties have delivered over the past decades.
Kidder asks people to think of the children when they vote and know they will be judged in the future.
Csaszar closes by saying “more Canadians than others are struggling.” Says people want change and his party would do so. Only briefly touches on SNC-Lavalin. Only time the words have been muttered so far.
And with that, it’s a wrap. Good night.