Transportation, taxation and the COVID-19 pandemic were three of the biggest issues candidates from the Abbotsford South riding bandied about during an all-candidates meeting conducted via Zoom on Thursday afternoon.
Bruce Banman from the BC Liberal Party, Aird Flavelle of the BC Green Party and Laura-Lynn Thompson from the Christian Heritage Party of BC were the three participants. BC NDP candidate Inder Johal was not present at the event.
The meeting, hosted by the Abbotsford Chamber of Commerce, the Fraser Valley Real Estate Board and the Fraser Valley Indo-Canadian Business Association, opened at noon and saw representatives from those groups and members of the general public submit questions.
Banman, who currently serves as a City of Abbotsford councillor and was a former mayor, stated that he has the necessary local knowledge and experience to take on the role. He said becoming an MLA will allow him to tackle bigger issues like the widening of Highway 1.
Banman and Flavelle sounded remarkably similar on their ideas to fix the gridlock on the highway, with both candidates stating they want more transit options available to commuters. The key difference between the two was that Flavelle only wants lanes opened up for commercial vehicles or buses while Banman wants an expanded highway open to all commuters. Banman previously had worked on an extension of an additional lane of Highway 1 to the Whatcom Road exit.
Thompson also agreed that the highway should be widened, and questioned why the NDP and Liberal parties had not solved this issue after so many years of being in power.
Banman also shared his vision for a rapid rail transit system that he would like to see stretch from Hope to Surrey and connect the region to Metro Vancouver. Despite this dream, Banman also said he would be reluctant to have Abbotsford join TransLink – while Flavelle and Thompson both supported that idea.
The BC Liberal Party’s plan to eliminate the provincial sales tax for one year and then bring it back at a reduced rate the following year was also discussed, with Flavelle questioning how the government would be able to make up that lost taxation revenue.
Banman stated the extra money in the pockets of voters would stimulate the local economy. Thompson said she would hold a referendum on removal of the PST and said health care costs are a bigger financial drain, with taxpayers footing the bill for sex change operations under current governments.
Recovery from the COVID-19 pandemic was important for all three candidates, with Thompson saying the BC NDP mishandled the lockdown. She said such severe restrictions were not needed. Thompson said COVID-19 doesn’t affect children and added that most people in B.C. don’t know anyone who has had the virus. She said the demand for masks isn’t helpful and we are living in fear.
Banman said he personally knows someone who has died from COVID-19, but agreed that the BC NDP’s reopening plan has been poor. He said parents must be given safe options and more discussion needs to occur. Flavelle said he was flabbergasted that schools have been opened and he is worried about the safety of children in schools.
Thompson added that the shutdown was not necessary and many businesses were hurt by the decisions made by the government. She mentioned that she was in Abbotsford recently and wanted to go to Earls Restaurant, but that, because of the lockdown, the establishment was closed. Banman rebutted, stating that Earls hasn’t been open in Abbotsford for many years and Thompson isn’t aware of that fact because she doesn’t live in the community.
Thompson, who is the leader of the CHP, claimed that her party is free of corruption and urged Abbotsford voters to give her a chance. She said corruption in the established parties runs all the way from Prime Minister Justin Trudeau to Banman himself, who she said has many people in Abbotsford upset about a casino deal many years ago.
Banman said he wasn’t in power during the casino scandal and reiterated that Thompson does not live here and isn’t sure what she’s talking about.
All three candidates seemed to agree that more can be done to work with First Nations people in B.C. and also that seniors deserve more assistance, especially during the COVID-19 era. All three also blamed the BC NDP for ongoing issues involving landlords and tenants.
This was the final all-candidates meeting scheduled before the election on Oct. 24.