Candidates for Chilliwack-Hope dove into both the thorny and mundane questions thrown at them at the federal election debate at the Cultural Centre Wednesday night.
When the dust settled, there was little bloodshed, but the audience of about 175 learned a little more about the six names on the ballot for Oct. 21 federal elections.
Presented by the Chilliwack Chamber of Commerce and the Downtown Chilliwack BIA, the livestreamed event saw questions flashed on the big screen asking candidates about their take on small business, the green economy, transportation links, and increased affordability in Canada.
They weighed in on the Trans Mountain pipeline issue and the effect it might have in the Chilliwack area, and what their party would do to address climate change, and how to deal with country’s debt burden.
But the top and most pressing question, the one earning the most votes in the online Q&A system, was about the impact of homelessness, addictions and crime on local businesses in the downtown core.
Candidates were asked for their specific plan to deal with those integrated issues, and why they thought that the homelessness, addiction and crime issues haven’t been solved yet.
Arthur Green, running for the Greens, said it was “a very big issue” but not just for Chilliwack, “where we have about 400” people homeless in the city but right across the province and North America.
“The big issue is that we’ve gone from a labour-intensive economy to one of innovation and technology,” Green said, “and we’ve left a lot of people behind. There’s not much work available for people who don’t have that skill set.”
The Green Party is proposing a “guaranteed livable income to get people above the poverty line,” he said and great affordable housing for all Canadians.
Rob Bogunovic, candidate for the People’s Party of Canada, said it’s a tough one because the triple threat of issues are integrated.
“The RCMP needs additional funding. We need to make sure they have the resources to take on the crime,” he said.
And in terms of addressing the affordable housing issue he said it has to be looked at from both a supply and demand perspective.
Mark Strahl of the Conservatives wanted to answer the second part of the questions, about why the problem isn’t solved.
“Quite frankly from what I have come to know there is not enough detox beds, there is not enough treatment centres and not enough recovery services,” Strahl said.
If someone has to wait several weeks to get in it means “we don’t have services when they are ready.”
Strahl pointed to the positive and collaborative efforts underway by Chilliwack Healthier Community, and the Task Force on Homelessness, of which he is a member.
“We’re all working together to find solutions, especially in our downtown core,” Strahl said.
The candidates were also asked what they planned to do to “make life more affordable for Canadians.”
Kelly Velonis, of the Liberals, said the Liberal Party is “moving forward” on this, with one million more jobs created and the lowest unemployment rate in history.
“We will continue as a Liberal government investing in communities,” Velonis said, as well as investing in small businesses that are creating jobs, partnering with local government and Indigenous communities.
Heather McQuillan of the New Democratic Party, said some of the plans the party has for making life affordable are why she wanted to run.
“We are going to invest in 500,000 new affordable homes over the next 10 years,” McQuillan said. “We are going to ensure the minimum wage is raised to $15 an hour.”
She also mentioned cracking down on money laundering, establishing a federal foreign buyers’ tax and capping cell/internet fees.
Dorothy-Jean O’Donnell of the Marxist-Leninist Party of Canada was one of the candidates who shared ideas on how to keep Canada’s debt burden low and affordable today and for future generations.
“We think that individual income tax should be abolished,” O’Donnell said, adding that taxation should happen “at the point of production” to avoid corruption in the debt making. “We stand for social revolution.”
In terms of upcoming events, there are a few more.
• On Oct. 3 from 1 to 3 p.m., the Chilliwack Child & Youth Committee is hosting an event at the Neighbourhood Learning Centre at CSS.
• On Oct. 9 in the evening it’s back to the Chilliwack Cultural Centre for an all-candidates meeting hosted by the Chilliwack Arts & Cultural Centre Society.
To watch the livestream of the event visit www.theprogress.com.