A solid group of candidates in two Langley ridings

First candidates' meeting highlights the individuals and their perspectives.

After one week of an official provincial election campaign, many potential voters are already tired of the rhetoric.

While the NDP are slowly rolling out their platform “one practical step at a time,” the BC Liberals are in attack mode. Leader Christy Clark is attacking the NDP’s economic credibility, Mike de Jong has unveiled a spend-o-meter and local candidates Mary Polak and Rich Coleman are emphasizing that the Liberals will run balanced budgets and reduce the debt, largely through revenues from liquefied natural gas (LNG) plants on the north coast.

However, when the candidates start getting into local issues and talking about why they would be the right ones to represent Langley, it gets far more interesting — at least for me, and hopefully for many Langley residents.

The eight candidates in the two local ridings were all on stage at last Tuesday’s Greater Langley Chamber of Commerce candidates’ debate. They were constructive, respectful of each other, and all of them made some excellent points.

The differences between the parties were highlighted by the candidates, but much of the discussion revolved around local issues brought up through questions.

I was impressed by independent Kevin Mitchell, who obviously has nothing to lose and everything to gain. He is not beholden to any party leader, and he has on a number of issues involving rural Langley.

While he is best-known for taking on the propane cannon issue, which has been a hot topic in Langley all winter and is certain to be even more controversial when the cannons are fired up again soon, he also has very legitimate concerns about widespread dumping of soil excavated from development sites on land within the Agricultural Land Reserve. This is a very serious issue for many rural residents, and the province holds most of the cards in this issue.

Green Party candidate Wally Martin made  some interesting points about how Langley can be a much greener place, and not without as much effort as many people would think.

Coleman demonstrated why he has been a solid MLA for 17 years — he knows the issues and he knows how to get things done. He was given increasing responsibility as a cabinet minister from the day the Liberals were elected in 2001, and now is deputy premier and minister of energy. But he hasn’t forgotten local issues — that was obvious.

Shane Dyson is one of the most thoughtful candidates I’ve known, and he has made a point of talking to all kinds of groups who aren’t necessarily enamoured with the NDP.

John Cummins is the first party leader of a serious provincial party to run in Langley, and is getting lots of provincial attention. One issue he talked about (and it would be interesting to see how this would actually unfold) is that the leader won’t exercise iron-fisted control over his MLAs.

The candidates will be debating (see story, page 5) issues again on Wednesday and Thursday of this week, and the Tuesday and  Wednesday of the following week. If you’d like to find out more, check them out.