Candidates square off at Langley Events Centre

Audience hears from Fort Langley-Aldergrove candidates Shane Dyson, Rich Coleman, Rick Manuel and Kevin Mitchell

More than 75 Langley residents decided to come in from the sunny weather to hear what the Fort Langley-Aldergrove MLA hopefuls had to say at an all-candidates meeting held at the Langley Events Centre on Wednesday (April 24) evening.

NDP candidate Shane Dyson, current Liberal MLA Rich Coleman, Conservative Rick Manuel and independent Kevin Mitchell all answered questions about transportation, light rail, TransLink, health care, legalizing pot, farm land and B.C.’s debt at the Greater Langley Chamber of Commerce-sponsored forum.

Coleman held the BC Liberal’s line, promoting Liquified Natural Gas as the answer to B.C.’s debt issues.

“It’s a trillion dollar industry and if it does what we think it can, we could clear our debt completely,” said Coleman. “We have been in negotiations with Shell, Exxon and other gas companies.”

The Liberals want to balance the budget and continue to reduce the debt.

“The debt to GDP is 17 per cent in B.C. In comparison, Canada’s debt to GDP is 25 per cent. In Greece, it’s more than 100 per cent.”

NDP candidate Shane Dyson said the debt question is difficult because people want services and the NDP want to take care of B.C. citizens.

“Our debt is spiralling. We need to look at expenditures and repurpose where we spend. But there will be debt. We have a great thirst for services.”

If the Conservatives were elected they have already indicated they would create a ministry of cost reductions, said Manuel.

“$60 billion is too much. There is a credibility gap and fiscal mismanagement,” said Manuel.

All the candidates agreed they wouldn’t support a garbage incinerator in Langley. But their feelings on the Right To Farm Act differed.

“The right to farm shouldn’t trump the right to live,” said Mitchell, citing examples of propane cannons and manure from farms going into aquifers.

“The Agricultural Land Reserve is not on the table. There has been less land taken out with the Liberals in power than any other time in history. But the reality is we have no reason to look at land in the ALC in Langley when we have areas like Willoughby and Brookswood that are not in the ALC,”said Coleman.

Dyson said there is too much farm land sitting idle with speculators buying it up and letting it go.

“Land in the Valley is so darn expensive. We need to look at ways for young farmers to lease that farm land and encourage use of it. Food security will be an issue in our future,” said Dyson.

If elected, the NDP would ban all use of pesticides. Dyson’s home is on a well and he said pesticides running off into the drinking water is a real concern for him and all his neighbours.

Dyson also promised a serious look into light rail for Langley if elected.

“Light rail is long overdue,” said Dyson. “Coquitlam and Richmond have it. It moves people out of their cars. We don’t need a Cadillac version.”

Manuel pointed out that if UBC gets financial help with rapid transit before the Fraser Valley does, there are going to be a lot of angry people.

“There is 17 cents of gas tax for TransLink and we don’t get anything for it,” said Manuel.

But Coleman dug in his heels, saying studies they have done show there isn’t enough population out here to make light rail possible.

“Until you have the ridership you can’t put it in. My response to this is we can get you to SkyTrain in 18 minutes now,” Coleman said.

All the candidates were in favour of looking at legalizing marijuana except for Coleman, who called pot a “gateway drug.”

He says in talking with law enforcement officials who attend rehab centre discussions, all addicts say they started with alcohol and pot.

“Alcohol today cost us more than all drugs combined,” Coleman said.