Four candidates for Langley-Aldergrove in the federal election avoided personal attacks while talking up their own party’s platforms on housing, the environment, and the economy in a Monday night all candidates meeting.
Moderator Frank Bucholtz tossed more than a dozen questions at NDP candidate Michael Chang, Green Kaija Farstad, Liberal Kim Richter, and Conservative Tako Van Popta, in the event organized by the Fraser Valley Real Estate Board and the Greater Langley Chamber of Commerce.
Richter emphasized her long record as a Langley Township councillor, and said the Conservatives, who have held Langley’s federal seats going back decades, aren’t standing up for Langley.
“They take Langley for granted,” Richter said. “This needs to change.”
Van Popta, who has been MP since the 2019 election, said he has advocated for local small businesses and emphasized his support for the SkyTrain extension to Langley, saying if elected his job will be to ensure that promise is kept by whatever government takes power. He also spoke of housing affordability issues.
“Without good transportation and housing, Canada’s growth will continue to stall,” Van Popta said.
“I believe we need to focus on creating well paid jobs as well as supporting local small business in Langley and Aldergrove as we recover from the pandemic,” Chang said. He emphasized as well that the NDP’s platform is focused on accessible health care, reconciliation with Indigenous Canadians and recognizing discrimination against minorities, disabled Canadians, and LGBTQ citizens.
Farstad noted that she quit the NDP when the provincial government approved the continuation of work on the Site C Dam in Northern B.C., and along with the environment, said governments should focus on collaboration more.
“There’s no point in having a party that represents maybe 40 per cent of the voters make 100 per cent of the decisions,” she said.
All the candidates supported vaccinations, though they had slightly different ideas on vaccine passports.
“We think vaccines are a safe and effective tool against COVID-19,” said Van Popta, and noted the Tories are pledged to get the vaccinated rate to 90 per cent. “It’s really tempting, really tempting to step into the fray on this, but it’s a provincial matter,” he said of passports.
Where the federal government has jurisdiction, he said the Conservatives support proof of vaccination, or a negative test or rapid test before getting on a train, bus, or plane for international travel.
“Yes, we support the vaccine passport,” Chang said. He added that the NDP wants the federal government to pursue a national standard passport, instead of the various cards and passports being created by each province separately.
“Yes, we support vaccination and we support a vaccine passport,” Richter said, noting the federal requirement announced recently to requir travellers on interprovincial planes, trains, and on all cruise ships to be vaccinated.
“Vaccine passports used to be normal, its only been a few decades that we haven’t had them,” said the Green’s Farstad.
The candidates were asked several times about housing-related issues, mostly related to the high cost of homes and rent and how they would help solve those issues.
While approvals take place at the municipal level, that doesn’t guarntee construction happens, Richter noted.
“We have approved thousands of new units in Langley, but they’re not being built,” she said.
She mentioned the Liberal pledge to build 1.4 million homes by 2026 several times, a rent to own program, and a national home buyers bill of rights in her party’s platform.
Chang spoke of his son and daughter, both in their twenties, and said when he hears how much they have to pay for rent, he feels like it’s impossible.
“It all begins with building,” Chang said.
He said the NDP would waive the GST on the construction of new affordable units so they can be delivered faster and made more affordable.
Both the Liberals and the Conservatives have plans to ban foreign buyers from the housing market for at least the near future, something Van Popta mentioned in one of his answers on housing.
“So we’re going to say Canadian homes for Canadian people,” he said.
He also noted the Conservatives would create incentives for people to invest capital gains in new purpose-built rental housing.
On a question about Canada’s difficult relationship with China given its ongoing detention of two Canadian citizens, Farstad said she wasn’t sure whether Canada could do much, given China’s size and clout, and “given our human rights abuses are just as bad as theirs.”
“We want a fairer tax system,” Chang said on a question about tax reform, saying that corporations need to pay their fair share, loopholes needed to be eliminated, and that more needed to be done to catch tax evaders and avoiders, while supporting small businesses.
Richter brought a personal note to her mention of the Liberals’ plan for $10 a day childcare.
“When my children were young, my entire salary went to pay for their day care,” she said.
Speaking about jurisdictional issues around approving more housing, Van Popta noted he’s already worked with the Mayors’ Council for TransLink.
“I have a sense that we can work together,” he said.
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