What may be the final all-candidates debate in the Cloverdale-Langley City riding drew more than 200 people to the Kwantlen Polytechnic University campus in Langley City Wednesday night.
It was the second debate in less than eight hours for the three hopefuls who showed up for the event, Conservative Dean Drysdale, New Democrat Rebecca Smith and Liberal John Aldag.
A fourth candidate, Green representative Scott Anderson, was again a no-show, something the moderator, Greater Langley Chamber of Commerce president Scott Johnston, did not allow to pass without comment.
“The next speaker is Scott Anderson of the Green Party,” Johnston said during the opening remarks.
“Does he have anything to say? I guess not.”
With less than two weeks to go in the federal election, there didn’t seem to be many undecided voters in the room.
The three candidates each had their own cheering section, all roughly the same size and volume.
Many of the written questions from the audience reflected that, with submissions giving the Conservative a chance to talk about his party’s policy on terrorism, allowing the NDP hopeful to discuss the party record on health care and permitting the Liberal to argue for deficit spending at a time of low interest rates.
When it came to local issues, all three candidates were stumped by a question about the fate of José Figueroa, the Langley man who has been living in a Walnut Grove church where he sought sanctuary to avoid deportation.
Drysdale declined to comment, saying “I’d have to know more about it.
So did Smith, who said “unfortunately, I don’t know the full details.”
Aldag said he only knew that Figueroa has “been in Walnut Grove” and while he declined to comment on that specific case, said a Liberal government would speed up the review process for people facing extradition.
On another local issue, the Trans Mountain pipeline expansion, Drysdale said as a Walnut Grove resident who lives next to the current pipeline route, he doesn’t understand the “hysteria” about the project.
“It’s a park,” Drysdale said of the tree-free green space where the pipeline runs behind his back yard.
“It’s really not that big of a deal.”
His rivals talked about the need for protection of the environment (NDP) and to consult with First Nations (Liberal).
The last question of the evening asked candidates to list their “number one priority concern” for the riding.
Drysdale listed two, saying crime, especially in Surrey where “people are very worried about the shootings” was one, and transit funding was the other, something he said the Conservative government has responded to with its recent announcement of funding for transit in Surrey and Langley.
Aldag said after knocking on 26,000 doors and walking 1,000 kilometres, “so far” the concern he has heard most often is about “jobs, the economy and the cost of living,” adding the Liberal plan to use deficit financing to build infrastructure “will help grow the economy.”
Smith, who described herself as a cancer survivor whose family doctor diagnosed her illness, said “it all comes back to our health.”
She said there are an estimated 14,000 Langley residents and 48,000 Surrey residents with no family doctors, and that situation will be corrected under an NDP government.
It was likely the final all-candidates debate of the election in Cloverdale-Langley City.
Smith told The Times she has heard some people were trying to organize another, but it sounded tentative.
Editor’s note: a representative from Scott Anderson’s campaign has told Black Press that the Green Party candidate has been ill and was therefore unable to attend Wednesday’s two all-candidates meetings for the Cloverdale-Langley City riding.