More than 130 people filled the Aldergrove Legion Hall on Monday, to hear the Langley-Aldergrove federal election candidates speak.
Three party candidates from the NDP, Greens and Liberals were questioned primarily on senior citizen issues, although the Libertarian and Conservative candidates were conspicuously absent from the event. The meeting was co-hosted by a number of local seniors’ organizations, and moderated by retired Langley Times editor Frank Bucholtz.
Incumbent Conservative candidate Mark Warawa was unable to attend due to other commitments, according to Bucholtz, but there was no explanation for Libertarian Lauren Southern’s absence.
Liberal hopeful Leon Jensen opened the proceedings by stating that, “The present government has not been honest and Canada’s international reputation is not what it used to be.” Noting that he had recently retired after 40 years service with the military, Jensen said, “”Justin Trudeau is just what we need.”
Green hopeful Simmi Dhillon said “Langley is where I chose to raise a family nine years ago,” and while she had seen many changes in that time here she hoped to see the community grow in a positive fashion.
NDP hopeful Margot Sangster described herself as an “advocate for seniors to stay in their homes as long as possible” and for providing long-term care services when that time of life comes. “(NDP leader Thomas) Mulcair is the man we can trust to undo the damage (Prime Minister Stephen) Harper and the Liberals have done.”
All three candidates pledged to reinstate 65 as the age of retirement for full pension benefits and to expand the Canada Pension Plan to help the more than 11,700 seniors in Langley, who on average live on $24,000 a year in pensions.
Housing and health care were among the most important issues cited by those who stepped up to the microphone to question the candidates.
Dhillon said the Canada Mortgage and Housing Corporation “needs to do more, provide access to grants, and the local community, builders need to contribute more to infrastructure and adaptable housing.”
Noting that “too many people are priced out of home ownership,” Jensen said a Liberal government would provide $125 million in tax incentives to finance construction of new housing.”
“Canada needs a bill asserting housing as a right,” asserted Sangster, promising that an NDP government would provide $2 billion for housing co-ops by 2020.
All three agreed that Canada needs a new health care strategy to replace the Romanow Commission’s Health Accord, which expired in 2014.
In response to a question about changing the present “First-past-the-post” electoral system, all three expressed a desire for a more representative system.
Jensen pointed out that, “60 per cent of the 60 per cent who voted chose our previous MP. That’s 36 per cent who voted for our representative who doesn’t have the decency to show up at this meeting.”
On the issue of the proposed Kinder Morgan pipeline expansion, the candidates questioned the validity of the regulatory processes, although Dhillon went a bit further, saying, “Kinder Morgan is not coming through here.”
One questioner noted that unless voters “vote together for a different government we’ll see the same MP elected again. I like all three of you but who do I vote for, give me reasons why I should vote for you.”
Dhillon replied that “the Greens are the only party that mandates that we speak for you, the constituents.”
Sangster said she has a track record of “working hard for over 30 years, I’m educated and experienced, and Mulcair is the best leader. The NDP has not been given the opportunity to govern this country; give us a shot.”
Jensen said the Liberals “will not vote against the Charter of Rights… and we will keep our promises. Look and see who will make real change.”