Chilliwack-Kent 2020 provincial election candidates, clockwise from bottom left, Kelli Paddon (NDP), Eli Gagne (Libertarian), Jeff Hammersmark (Green), Jason Lum (Independent), and Laurie Throness (BC Liberal).

BC VOTES: Chilliwack-Kent provincial election candidates Q&A

Four out of five vying for the Chilliwack-Kent seat talk COVID-19, housing affordability, overdose crisis and more

In advance of the provincial election on Oct. 24, The Chilliwack Progress sent questions on four topics to the five candidates in the Chilliwack-Kent electoral district.

Subjects included the COVID-19 pandemic, housing affordability, and the overdose crisis.

Here are their unedited responses.

[*Editor’s note: BC Green Party candidate Jeff Hammersmark did not respond to the questions.]

1. What do you think of B.C.’s response so far to the COVID-19 pandemic, what would you have done differently, and what needs to change moving forward?

• Eli Gagne – BC Libertarian*

“The current crisis management is disproportionate to the harms of the virus and causes more damage than it helps cure. While we have been fortunate in this province to have a measured and rational public response guided by our Public Health Officer – and some of the most relaxed restrictions in the world – it is time to recognize that the emergency has passed and it is time to return the province to a state of normalcy.

“The climate of fear perpetuated by current policies is causing irreparable harm. We can measure this harm in increased overdoses, suicides, social isolation, drug abuse, domestic violence, poverty. We see it in the loss of livelihoods, homes, relationships. The play of children has been disrupted, and elders have been left to die alone. British Columbia is suffering.

“The continued lockdown is inconsistent with a free and just society. Its benefits are vague and poorly supported by evidence. For instance, a study published in the Lancet in July found no relationship between full lockdowns and deaths from Covid-19. If we cannot demonstrate a direct connection, this is bad public policy. We can protect the elderly and vulnerable while the rest of us get back to work.”

[*Editor’s note: The BC Libertarian candidates for both local ridings, Chilliwack and Chilliwack-Kent, Andrew Coombes and Elig Gagne, submitted identical responses to all four questions.]

• Jason Lum – Independent

“I believe we have been well served by Dr Bonnie Henry’s professional advice and direction. I was moved by the willingness of all political parties to set aside partisan bickering and focus on the needs of the citizens of British Columbia. Unfortunately, that initial spirit of “fighting the virus, instead of fighting each other” was short-lived. However, the citizens of British Columbian got a glimpse of what the system could look like when politicians set aside politics and truly work together. If elected as an Independent MLA this is the exact approach I will take. I have also been involved in providing feedback directly to the Health Authority throughout the Pandemic, and I maintain close communications with the senior leadership at Fraser Health. The constructive feedback I have provided thus far includes focussing on clearer, more consistent public health messaging, faster public reporting of cases, increased access to local Covid testing and better, more rapid test results.”

Kelli Paddon – BC NDP

“B.C. acted fast and has worked hard to get through the pandemic so far, but the reality is there is a lot more work to do. The BC NDP is keeping people healthy and safe by investing in healthcare and fixing the problems with seniors care that the BC Liberals left behind. This has already included a record $1.6 billion investment to fight COVID-19 this fall and an unprecedented $8 billion investment to support people and kickstart the economy.

“Moving forward, our COVID-19 Action and Economic Recovery plans are about making sure we look out for one another, putting people first has never been as important as it is in the COVID-19 reality. If elected, John Horgan’s team have committed to providing direct support to British Columbians with the $1,000 recovery benefit for families, or $500 for individuals, continuing to improve health care, making life more affordable, helping families, creating jobs and rebuilding BC.

“The BC NDP’s platform is the plan that will help people get through the pandemic together and ensure everyone benefits from the economic recovery. We’re fighting COVID-19 to keep people healthy and safe, but we need to keep going.”

• Laurie Throness – BC Liberal

“The provincial response, led by Dr Henry, has obviously been effective in bending the curve and keeping hospitalizations and deaths low. In retrospect, we should have controlled travel from infected areas more quickly, and established far more testing and tracing earlier, so that such a drastic shutdown would not have been necessary. We need to do these things now and in the future in order to live normal lives, free our economy, and live with the pandemic all at once.”

–––

2. With so many families struggling to make ends meet, what needs to be done about the housing affordability crisis in B.C.?

• Eli Gagne – BC Libertarian

“The BC Libertarian Party will eliminate provincial affordable housing subsidies, saving an estimated $500 million annually. Affordable housing subsidies for purchasers make housing less affordable. Their introduction encourages insiders to speculate on the price gains that will occur when all the new buyers soon compete for the same properties with a larger borrowing capacity. The BC Libertarian Party would remove the subsidies completely, and instead focus on measures that will increase supply of entry-level accommodations, such as reducing the complexity of building codes and encouraging municipalities to offer extra Floor Space Ratio for rental only buildings. We will put property owners back in the driver’s seat under the tenancy laws, allowing more to put their properties up for rent without the risk of being locked in with a bad tenant.”

• Jason Lum – Independent

“The Provincial and Federal governments have announced the allocation of billions of dollars in response to the affordability crisis. The fact of the matter is that while money is spent playing politics in swing ridings around the Province, we have grown accustomed to accepting the leftovers here in Chilliwack-Kent. This is not acceptable.

“With $7.1 billion in housing money announced, I believe that Chilliwack-Kent should receive at least $170 million along with 336 units of the 14,000 new mixed-income and rental homes announced by the Government. As your independent MLA you will have a representative in Victoria who will hold the party in power accountable for the promises being made. I will work to ensure that we get our fair share here in Chilliwack-Kent riding.”

Kelli Paddon – BC NDP

“This is one of the major problems facing people, and it is years in the making. The BC Liberals created a housing crisis by putting speculators and developers ahead of people for 16 years, and then were part of blocking the renter’s rebate for British Columbians. But we are fighting hard to tackle this crisis and help people.

“For the last three years we have worked hard to make our homes and neighborhoods better and more affordable, but there is more work to do. Our plan provides a one-time $1,000 recovery benefit to help families and stimulate the economy. We will make life more affordable by freezing rent until the end of 2021 and providing an income-tested $400 renters’ rebate. We will continue our 10-year housing plan that will see 114,000 new affordable housing for British Columbians, that already has 25,000 affordable homes complete or underway.

“We will also help with other costs that are critical to helping with affordability by expanding the $10 a day childcare, making transit free for kids age 12 and under, expanding transit options in growing areas, and cutting ICBC car insurance premiums by 20 per cent.”

• Laurie Throness – BC Liberal

“Urban areas need to densify. To this end, municipal permitting processes must be streamlined. Government should build more affordable housing. We need to encourage private developers to build more rental units so that all rents will go down. And we need to showcase and encourage urban growth and jobs in beautiful BC outside the Lower Mainland where housing costs are much lower.”

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3. “Government needs to ensure safe supply as part of the solution to help tackle the overdose crisis.” What is your response to this statement?

• Eli Gagne – BC Libertarian

“The Overdose crisis is a major issue for not only for Chilliwack but for most areas of BC. Governments need to end the lockdown as they have contributed to the deaths and despair. Governments need to hold China accountable for the export of Fentanyl. The BC Libertarian Party would deprioritize Prosecutions so we can focus on health of the user rather then the criminality.

“The BC Libertarian Party would partner with non-profits to run a pilot project and set up drug purity testing sites. We would also work with non-profits who would like to set up compassion clubs.

“Return the authority to doctors in prescribing or not prescribing opioids. Defer too but encourage municipalities to set up Safe injection sites. A one size fits all approach has not worked in the past and will not work in the future. We need to give municipalities the flexibility to deal with the issue as it evolves.”

• Jason Lum – Independent

“I agree with the statement. A safe medical alternative to unpredictable and deadly street drugs is a critical step in reducing overdose deaths and tackling the opioid crisis. The Province also has additional actions they can take along with supporting a safe supply. I have consistently advocated for quicker low barrier access to housing. I have called on the Province to increase access to mental health services, as well as supporting the provision of free Province-wide trauma counselling, and increased medically supervised detox services. We also need additional supports for Aboriginal mental health liaisons on and off-reserve, as well as a fully funded ACT Team (Assertive Community Treatment) here in Chilliwack-Kent.”

Kelli Paddon – BC NDP

“The loss and pain of this crisis are being felt in Chilliwack-Kent along with the rest of BC, too many lives have been lost. Even the BC Liberals spokesperson on addictions has said ‘There is definitely a need for safe supply’ (June 12, 2020). Addressing the realities of the overdose crisis means investing in a full continuum of care which includes prevention, harm reduction, safe prescription medications, treatment, and recovery. Prevention is key – we need to protect and support our kids. The opioid crisis was exacerbated by the COVID-19 pandemic.

“The BC Liberals had cut youth treatment beds just as the crisis was growing, but our government got right to work by creating the Ministry of Mental Health and Addictions to provide the attention, resources, and support to the dedicated front-line workers out there doing their best everyday. We’re doubling youth treatment beds and increasing beds for adults, including new First Nations treatment centres. We worked with Dr. Henry to expand safe prescription alternatives to separate people from toxic street drugs, but there is still so much more to do.

“We need to build on what we have started, and if elected we will get right to work on scaling up BC’s response to the opioid crisis.”

• Laurie Throness – BC Liberal

“The popular response to the failure of harm reduction is ‘more harm reduction.’ We need to take a different turn, following harm reduction with long-term treatment leading to freedom from addiction. While safe supply should be considered for an exceptional small minority of entrenched addicts, the rule must be long-term treatment leading to recovery in order to reduce deaths, homelessness, poverty, gang violence, disease, and every other social ill. I have been saying this for seven years as MLA.”

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4. What issue do you think is top of mind for most voters in Chilliwack-Kent, and what will you do about it?

• Eli Gagne – BC Libertarian

“I think depending on the voter it could be anything from the Opioid crisis, to affordability.

“The BC Libertarian Party will make BC more affordable by raising the individual basic income tax exemption BC residents will get to see more money from their paychecks. The Libertarian Party will also end all taxes on liquor and cigarettes (Since taxes don’t discourage consumption. The BC government has been taxing liquor punitively for a century and drinking trends remain the same). The BC Libertarian party also opposes any tax on Cannabis.

“The BC Libertarian party would also eliminate all Fuel and Carbon taxes saving the average family $1,000 per year. The BC Libertarian Party will also End the ICBC Monopoly by turning ICBC into a co-operative and opening the market to competition.”

• Jason Lum – Independent

“I believe the voters are concerned with the amount of distraction and negative attention constantly being placed on this riding. I am running as an Independent MLA to offer an alternative to the status quo. I am the only candidate with the combination of skills, and the proven track record to galvanize support across party lines and focus the attention back on the real needs of our riding. Whether it be public safety, shortages of affordable housing, lack of daycare, overcrowded schools, a growing homeless population, I will carry those concerns forward with clarity and focus. The voters want someone who will stand up for the needs of Chilliwack-Kent and get results in the Legislature, and I believe I am the right person for the job.”

Kelli Paddon – BC NDP

There are so many important issues facing people in Chilliwack-Kent and all British Columbians, especially as our community is growing as new families move to our beautiful area. Healthcare and the economy are top of mind for the families, workers, small business owners, and seniors I have been speaking with. We face big challenges over the next four years , which is why our plan provides the support people need right now and lays out a vision for how BC can emerge from this pandemic stronger and more secure than ever.

“We’ve accomplished a lot in three years after 16 years of neglect, but there is more to do. We have committed to a plan that will improve healthcare by delivering faster care that is closer to home, and will kickstart the economy by creating jobs and rebuilding BC. If elected I will be getting right to work as a strong, effective, and inclusive voice for the people of Chilliwack-Kent, and work with government to implement a plan that works locally and provincially for British Columbians to keep moving BC forward for all of us.”

• Laurie Throness – BC Liberal

“The issues I heard most about as MLA were transportation issues: congestion on Highway 1, the price of gas, and the high cost and bureaucracy of ICBC. Our Party would widen the highway and introduce competition in auto insurance, and if re-elected as MLA I would continue to try to understand the complex fuel market in order to find a way to bring more supply of fuel to the Lower Mainland, which would in turn lower the price of gas.”

• READ MORE: BC VOTES: Chilliwack provincial election candidates Q&A

• READ MORE: B.C. VOTES 2020: Advance voting begins today in Chilliwack

• READ MORE: Keep track of Chilliwack and Chilliwack-Kent provincial election candidates on social media

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