All the candidates came out to Lake Cowichan’s Centennial Hall to debate the issues as Canada’s federal election campaign winds down.
At the meeting, organized by the Cowichan Lake District Chamber of Commerce, each of the six candidates gave a brief history of themselves and their views, and then answered questions posed first by the chamber and then by members of the audience. Written questions were interspersed with queries made at the microphone.
In alphabetical order, here’s a quick rundown on what they said they stood for.
Rhonda Chen (People’s Party of Canada): Canadians pay too much tax while government wastes the money that is collected on increased immigration and other poorly-thought out programs.
Alana DeLong (Conservatives): Government needs to leave more money in taxpayers’ pockets, but the Tories are still willing to give where it’s needed.
Blair Herbert (Liberals): He’s proud of the significant progress the Liberals have made in the last four years, helping families, Indigenous people, and more.
Lydia Hwitsum (Greens): Valuing families and advocating for social justice are her foundations; government must manage well on behalf of the nation.
Alistair MacGregor (NDP): He said that as he’s worked in the constituency seen too many people who have a hard time making ends meet; they need an economic plan that works.
Robin Stanbridge (Christian Heritage): He wants electors to have a more personal say in government decision-making, re-integrating people into the process directly.
Asked what they’d do for the seniors who make up 38 per cent of Canadian population, Chen said that 76 per cent of new immigrants depend on government benefits: far too high a percentage. The money to support them could be better spent on seniors.
Herbert pointed to increasing CPP survivor allowance and other Liberal initiatives, Hwitsum called for a compassionate safety net, MacGregor wanted the federal government to take a leadership role in housing.
When asked about incentives for small business, Stanbridge said, “the minimum wage has been increased but how about bringing in a maximum tax” for small businesses while DeLong wanted to repeal tax increases that affect small business since its becoming “more expensive and complicated” for these entrepreneurs.
The Chamber also asked what the candidates would do to ensure Canada’s veterans are well-treated when they come home.
Hwitsum said that health care and mental health care are essentials, Herbert said the Liberals re-opened closes veterans’ offices, and DeLong said it was necessary to “clear the backlog” so veterans with problems were not held up.
MacGregor said that of the money that the federal government voted to veterans affairs, “the Conservatives left $1 billion unspent, the Liberals left $372 million unspent. Both of those parties talk a good game but we still have homeless veterans.”
Stanbridge added that “veterans affairs is a mess” and called it “a terrifying indication” of the situation Canada’s military personnel must deal with when they are abroad.
Among the questions from the public, climate change was top of the heap.
Stanbridge said, “we have to really work on stopping the plundering of resources,” while MacGregor urged more emphasis on “the circular economy (re-using, repurposing)”, adding, “we also finally need to listen to the science.”
Helping to start the Cowichan Watershed Board was something direct that Lydia Hwitsum could point to, from her days as chief of Cowichan Tribes.
DeLong called for industry-by-industry solutions building technology along the way.
“Then, we can export the technology to China and India, who are the real source of the problems,” she said.
Chen said that other factors such as sun spot activity also factored in, adding, “We shouldn’t use climate change as an excuse to tax people.”