Local federal election candidates have taken part in several meetings focused on different issues with more on the way.
Last week, six of the seven that will be on the ballot for Chilliwack-Hope took part in a meeting focused on youth issues hosted by the Chilliwack Child and Youth Committee (CYC), a network of local youth and family agencies.
Services gaps that impact the lives of local children and youth were the focus of the Oct. 3 meeting.
Candidates were provided with the statistical backdrop that 4,710 children are living in poverty in Chilliwack-Hope. That’s 20 per cent of all children, and 55 per cent of children in single-parent families living in poverty.
Candidates faced questions on climate change, stopping teenagers from accessing pornography in public buildings, LGBTQ rights, and more.
On the broad subject of poverty, specifically the question was: “What [are] your party strategies to adopt a comprehensive poverty reduction plan and what are your parties’ targets and timelines?”
No one directly answered the question, but it was acknowledged, by Conservative incumbent Mark Strahl, that November will be the 30-year anniversary of the unanimously adopted pledge in Parliament put forth by Ed Broadbent in 1989 to eradicate poverty by the year 2000.
Almost 20 years after that deadline, it hasn’t happened.
“We believe in the life-changing power of jobs,” Strahl said. “Actions speak louder than words.”
Liberal candidate Kelly Velonis said her party’s child tax benefit has helped lift thousands of children out of poverty. She said by 2023 the basic personal amount for income taxes will be raised to $15,000 to help the poorest. She also called the controversy over The Portal homeless shelter in downtown Chilliwack “dehumanizing people.”
The NDP’s Heather MacQuillan pointed to her party’s platform to expand pharmacare and dental coverage, increase mental health access and implement $200 a month childcare and a $15 minimum wage.
Green candidate Arthur Green talked about setting municipal minimum wages. Marxist-Leninist Party candidate Dorothy-Jean O’Donnell addressed the recent Blackstock decision by the Canadian Human Rights Tribunal ordering the federal government to pay $40,000 to each child taken from homes under the on-reserve child welfare system starting in Jan. 1, 2006.
People’s Party candidate Rob Bogunovic suggested the tax collection system was part of the problem as the federal government collects the most taxes while many problems are left to be addressed at the local level, dealt most directly with by the municipal government.
“We need to redesign how we collect taxes in this country,” he said.
Wrapping up the meeting, the smaller parties addressed the fact that the attention is usually paid mostly to the Liberals and Conservatives.
“For too long we have been told there are two options,” NDP’s MacQuillan said.
The PPC’s Bogunovic suggested that individuals should vote their values.
And O’Donnell from the Marxist-Leninist Party — who pointed out the reality that she would not win — talked about small parties and she encouraged voters to visit her party’s website for “incisive political commentary on a broad range of subjects.”
“I urge you to look beyond the cartel party blinkers,” she said. “Consider the alternatives and vote for the party whose views most are like your own.”
The last big meeting for the candidates is at the Chilliwack Cultural Centre on Wednesday, Oct. 9 starting at 7 p.m.
Election day is Oct. 21.
Visit www.theprogress.com/federal-election for all your election covereage, and visit the Chilliwack Progress Facebook page for a video from this event.