The candidates for the Cowichan-Malahat-Langford federal riding speak at Chemainus Secondary School all-candidates meeting. (Photos by Craig Spence)

The candidates for the Cowichan-Malahat-Langford federal riding speak at Chemainus Secondary School all-candidates meeting. (Photos by Craig Spence)

Candidates respond to Chemainus concerns

A recap of all-candidates meeting at Chemainus Secondary School

Five candidates in the running for the Cowichan-Malahat-Langford seat in the Oct. 21 federal election responded to questions from about 100 Chemainus residents at the Oct. 8 all-candidates meeting. Conservative candidate Alana DeLong did not attend.

Convened in the community room of Chemainus Secondary School, the session got under way at 6:30 pm. Climate change, a seniors strategy for Canada, health care, strengthening the family, and engaging youth were among the issues raised during the two-hour session organized by the Chemainus Residents Association in partnership with the Chemainus & District Chamber of Commerce.

At the tables were: Blair Herbert of the Liberal Party; Lydia Hwitsum, Green Party; Alistair MacGregor, NDP; Robin Morton Stanbridge, Christian Heritage Party; and Rhonda Chen, People’s Party of Canada. The candidates were invited to make their opening and closing statements, and respond to questions from the audience in random order, by moderator Tom Andrews.

Hwitsum promised a ‘collaborative’, ‘community driven’ and ‘solution-driven’ approach to the “job of leadership” on behalf of Cowichan-Malahat-Langford voters. “We really need to find ways of working together to get things done,” she said.

“We at the Green Party have a policy framework that’s actually designed to meet the challenges of climate instability, economic and social injustice, reconciliation, and real democracy.”

Chen asked where the money is going to come from to live up to the promises being made by the other candidates’ parties. “Money can’t be printed from thin air,” she said. “We have to think about what we can afford and what we cannot.”

The People’s Party will balance the budget within two years, and reduce personal income tax to 15 per cent on incomes between $15,000 and $100,000. Taxes on incomes over $100,000 would be 25 per cent. “We want Canadians to have more money in their own pockets, rather than have the government have their tax money in their pocket,” she said.

MacGregor asked people to consider his performance as their MP over the past four years, and the long-standing record of the NDP representing the interests of Canadians in Parliament. Moving forward, he said climate change has to be ‘at the centre’ of his party’s concerns, but that the need to address global warming still must be balanced with other priorities.

“We cannot forget economic justice and social justice,” he said. “In a country as wealthy as Canada is, we still have far too many people who are suffering from the inequality that exists, who are struggling to get by.

“Here in the Cowichan Valley we have over 30 percent of our children living in poverty, so what I’m proposing is that you elect someone who is going to take these issues to Ottawa to fight every single day for them.”

Herbert said a passion for farming has given him a ‘front row seat’ on the impact of the changing environment’s challenges to the food security of the Island.

“Changing environment is a key reason why I have entered this race. The Liberals have invested more on the climate file than any government in Canada’s history,” he said. “We cannot afford to go backwards on the environmental file.”

He cited the Liberal government’s record in office. “We have lifted over 300,000 children out of poverty,” he said. “We have helped Canadians create a million jobs, and we have made great advances in improving the Canada Pension Plan for future generations, and we have also made significant strides in the environmental file as well as the Indigenous file.”

Morton Stanbridge said, “I’m primarily doing this because I’m fed up with politicians. I’m interested in seeing a new system implemented whereby people could directly involve themselves in the decision-making with the federal government, provincial government and municipal governments.”

He wants government to tap into the specific skills people have to improve the delivery of services, and ‘be accountable for their input.’

“I’ve been developing a direct democracy system that couples accountability, taxation and direct decision-making in governance, so I’m putting that forward.”

The Christian Heritage Party is more ‘progressive’ than the other parties, Stanbridge said, because of its opposition to health care spending on things that have resulted from ‘poor lifestyle decisions.’ He also said the party’s ‘more strict’ stance on the medical necessity of “certain services such as abortion, gender reassignment and euthanasia” make the CHP “one of the most progressive parties out there.”

Election Day is Monday, Oct. 21.

– by Craig Spence, Chemainus Residents Association.