There is a growing rivalry between Langley MLA and BC Liberal candidate Mary Polak and Langley NDP candidate Andrew Mercier, as witnessed by a packed house at the all-candidates meeting at the Langley Seniors Resource Centre on Tuesday night.
Throughout the entire evening, Mercier made stabs at the current Liberal government, which Polak consistently rebutted.
Hosted by the Langley Teachers Association, the meeting was attended by Polak, Mercier and Green Party candidate Wally Martin from the Langley riding. Fort-Langley Aldergrove candidates attending were independent Kevin Mitchell, Shane Dyson of the NDP, Conservative Rick Manuel and Green Lisa David.
Conservative Party leader and Langley candidate John Cummins and Fort Langley-Aldergrove Liberal MLA Rich Coleman both were absent.
As election day gets closer, the tension between candidates is growing, particularly in Langley, where there is a spirited contest for votes.
This particularly came out between Polak and Mercier in response to a question from the PIPE UP Network about the close proximity of the 60-year-old Kinder Morgan pipeline to local schools.
Polak began her statement by saying that candidates need to be consistent in their positions.
“I don’t think it is consistent to say you would be in favour of having an independent process if you’ve already made up your mind as to what the outcome of that process will be,” she said, in reference to an early comment from Mercier that the NDP would withdraw from the Equivalency Act.
“The challenge for us in British Columbia is that we depend heavily on resources that we have in abundance,” she added. “And whether its mining, forestry or oil and gas, there are risks associated with that when it comes to the environment. At the same time, not perceiving to utilize the resources that we have and trade with them, means there are risks to the very important social programs that we have just spent significant time discussing.
“We cannot ignore the fact that we have an economy that is based on the resources that we have in terms of our natural world.”
While answering the second question from the PIPE UP Network, Mercier then said, “first I just want to address something Mary said, I think it’s a little rich to be lectured about consistency from a government that said there was no HST on the table in 2009.”
The audience immediately started clapping and cheering.
On the same topic, Mitchell said that as a mechanical engineer he is very concerned about the integrity of the product being shipped through the Kinder Morgan pipeline. It was designed to carry light crude 60 years ago, but the products now being shipped are bitumen, heavy oil and highly toxic chemicals.
The pipeline doesn’t need to be expanded, it needs to be replaced, he said.
“We are going to be faced with an environmental disaster because we didn’t do anything,” he added.
Much of the night also echoed a theme of education,with questions about teachers’ pay, class sizes and back to work legislation.
Also a hot topic was the issue of transportation, which was brought up many times by both students and seniors.
A member from the Kwantlen Polytechnic University Student Association asked how the candidates will address the lack of transportation services in the area, especially given that the Kwantlen Student Association had to start their own intercampus shuttle to ensure students can get from campus to campus on time.
Mitchell pulled out a quote from TransLink’s 10-year anniversary report, The Road Less Travelled, released in November of 2008 that said, “what will blow everyone’s socks off, however, is TransLink’s next five to seven years. With 2008 bringing a new board structure and more dedicated funding, TransLink can now truly deliver on its promise of transporting people and goods while responding to the needs of municipalities.”
In response Mitchell said, “I think we can all agree that that didn’t happen.”
Martin suggests that government reinstates the interurban rail services that date all the way back to 1910.
“This is the answer,” he said. “This line is in existence, it could be opened quick, and running rights are there, the passenger rights are there, its just a matter of the political decision to do it.”
According to stats from TransLink, 82 per cent of travel South of the Fraser involves making a trip to somewhere else South of the Fraser, Mercier said.
“The reality is, TransLink hasn’t been able to meet that demand,” he said.
Mercier blames the current government for appointing a board to make TransLink decisions, rather than leaving it to the democratically-elected mayor’s council.
Polak rebutted his statement, saying that the mayors’ council still votes on the plans put forward by TransLink but, she added, “I agree the government’s model isn’t working.”
She says the government needs to make an incentive for the mayors to think regionally and not about just their own particular municipality, which has led to a very Vancouver-centric transit model.
The panel also discussed improving local transit routes for seniors and looking towards local organizations, such at the seniors centre, for input.
For more information on the local candidates in both Langley ridings, see The Times candidate videos at www.langleytimes.com.