From legalizing marijuana and the controversial Senate to Bill C-51 and pipelines, federal candidates in the Langley-Aldergrove riding engaged in a rousing debate on a range of topics Thursday night at Township hall.
The Fraser River Presentation Theatre was above its capacity of 200 people, with dozens standing to hear what the candidates— Conservative Mark Warawa, Libertarian Lauren Southern, NDP Margo Sangster, Liberal Leon Jensen and Green Party Simmi Dhillon — had to say ahead of the Oct. 19 federal election.
Supporters of the NDP appeared to dominate the crowd.
Written questions from the audience came in by the dozen, with many not able to be addressed in the allotted two hours. While the economy has been a dominant election issue, it didn’t come up directly in Thursday’s debates. Among the topics that were addressed are:
• Cross Border Shopping
Moderator Scott Johnston, president of the Greater Langley Chamber of Commerce — organizers of the all-candidate meeting — asked if any candidates would agree to implement same-day duty at the border to discourage Canadians from shopping across the border.
None of the candidates thought same-day duty would be a good idea.
“But a recent trip to the Aldergrove border showed that staffing there is low, so we would like to increase staffing there,” said Sangster.
Jensen remarked that same-day duty would create even worse lineups than already exist.
Warawa, whose government has paid for improving the Aldergrove crossing, said the reduction of tariffs to come through the new 12-country Trans-Pacific Partnership will reduce prices for Canadians, keeping them shopping at home.
“With the TPP in play, Langley’s poultry, berry and dairy farmers are losing out. We need to do more to protect them,” she said.
• Kinder Morgan Pipeline
Sangster listed several ways in which she believes the pipeline process has been flawed so far: “The environment assessment process has been gutted. The National Energy Board hasn’t allowed cross-examination and there has been no meaningful First Nations input into the pipeline,” she said.
Jensen said the NEB “needs more teeth.”
Dhillon said the Green Party feels citizens haven’t been consulted, the NEB isn’t going to listen and one of the biggest protests against the pipeline was held in Langley, organized by Kwantlen First Nation, who are going to be deeply impacted and yet haven’t been consulted.
“It is inappropriate to prejudge a project. We want to give a two-year time limit for an assessment, otherwise these assessments drag on for years and people make jobs out of keeping the [assessments] going without decision,” said Warawa. He pointed to Fish Lake, which got approval but was turned down by the government.
Southern said property owners would have full rights of everything below and above their land.
• Bill C-51
Warawa said when he asks people what they don’t like about Bill C-51, they don’t know.
“C-51removes terrorist propaganda online, prevents travel for the purpose of terrorism and all of this has judicial oversight, so it isn’t just the government making the decisions.”
Dhillon has strong views against Bill C-51. “It’s not about security, it’s about taking freedom away,” she said. “Who are we protecting Canadians from? If you have dual citizenship you run the risk of being deported now.”
The NDP would repeal C-51, said Sangster, calling the bill a ‘red herring.’
“CSIS is reasonably competent at doing its job,” she said.
For Jensen, who has a military background, the bill isn’t black and white. “Yes, it went too far, but from what I understand Canada didn’t have a no-fly terrorist list before Bill C-51,” he said.
• Legalizing marijuana:
“We are spending billions and losing the battle,” said Jensen. “Let’s figure out how to take the profits away from the criminals. Let’s study what is working in Colorado and Washington and use best practices and legalize it.”
Under a Conservative government, pot will never be legalized or even decriminalized, said Warawa. Medical pot can be prescribed by a doctor, he said.
But Warawa acknowledged that the medical pot growing industry has become criminalized to a degree, which has created problems.
Sangster, who has a background in public health and addictions, has some reservations about legalizing pot.
“I’ve seen the negative effects marijuana can have on young people,” she said.
Southern said gang violence is the result of prohibition.
Dhillon said the Greens would legalize it and that she would like to see hemp grown in the floodplains in Aldergrove.
• Toeing Party Line
Discussions got heated when candidates were asked if they would ever vote against their party to follow his or her constituents’ wishes?
Warawa was greeted with laughter and boos when he responded, “The Conservative party is the only party who encourage free votes.”
Dhillon pointed to the muzzling of ministers and scientists by the PM.
“There is a mass exodus of prominent ministers to running again. The Conservative party is the biggest micro-manager,” said Dhillon.
“Justin [Trudeau] will reduce the power of the PM,” said Jensen.
• Canadian Pension Plan
Only the Conservative Party would keep CPP eligibility at 67.
“CPP started in 1965 . . . we live longer and are healthier, so the age was raised because we live longer,” said Warawa. The next review is scheduled to take place in 2016.
The Green Party would return CPP eligibility to 65, but also create a national seniors strategy, said Dhillon.
“Restore it to 65 and enhance it,” said Jensen.
The NDP would restore it to 65 with additional funding for home care, funding beds for seniors, said Sangster.
• How Would The Parties Pay for their Promises
Warawa said all his parties promises are ‘costed.’ No increase in the GST is needed.
Only the Liberals have come out to say they would run a $3 billion deficit for the first three years to get the economy going.
The NDP has a committed balanced budget in year one, said Sangster. The NDP plans to reduce small business tax and increase corporate by two per cent.