Chilliwack 2020 provincial election candidates, clockwise from top left, Josue Anderson (Independent), Andrew Coombes (Libertarian), Tim Cooper (Green), John Martin (BC Liberal), Diane Janzen (BC Conservative), and Daniel Coulter (NDP).

BC VOTES: Chilliwack provincial election candidates Q&A

Six vying for the Chilliwack 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 six candidates in the Chilliwack electoral district.

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

Here are their unedited responses.

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?

• Josue Anderson – Independent

“At the beginning of the pandemic, I was extremely proud to be a British Columbian, where individuals, communities, and businesses banded together to protect our most vulnerable. I am immensely disappointed in the NDP’s unwillingness to extend hero pay to all healthcare workers, or work more collaboratively with small businesses fighting to survive the pandemic. It is quite telling that the NDP didn’t even ask Dr. Bonnie Henry for her thoughts on the public health risks of calling a snap election when it was clear we would see a rise in cases, which is what is happening.”

• Andrew Coombes – 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.]

Tim Cooper – BC Green Party

“I’ve watched the North American and the Chinese response. The Chinese response was very unpleasant for all involved, but for a short time. Now China does not have any (or very small?) person to person transmission and their economy is firing on all cylinders. Our response, not so good but having said that, I think BC is doing well compared to the other provinces, so Kudo’s to the government for that.

“Western governments, including BC have tried to compromise with the virus by voluntary policies that have worked to some extent, but are clearly failing now. I would have preferred a stronger (Chinese-like?) response for a few weeks at the beginning and then we could have been virus-free afterwards.”

• Dan Coulter – BC NDP

“In response to the pandemic, John Horgan and the NDP government launched its COVID-19 Action Plan, keeping people safe and investing more than $8 billion in supports that helped people, communities and local businesses. We have seen 301,700 jobs recovered since the pandemic struck, returning to 96.3 per cent of pre-pandemic employment levels. British Columbia gained 54,800 jobs in September, more than 70 per cent of them full-time, as the province outpaced the national average. But we know there’s much more work to do.

“Our province can’t go back to the way things were under the BC Liberals – where tax cuts for those at the top left everyone else behind. COVID-19 has highlighted just how unbalanced our economy is – the rich seem to be getting richer while everyday people carry on under the stress of how to make it to the next month.

“Moving forward, public services, including health, will also continue to be needed now more than ever and we can’t risk letting them be cut. That’s why our economic recovery plan and health response is built around people, communities, workers, and our province’s small businesses. If re-elected our BC NDP government will continue to build on our recovery efforts by:

• Providing a Recovery Benefit to all households of $1000 or $500, based on income

• Helping businesses grow and rehire with a 15 per cent tax credit on new payroll; and providing $300 million in grants for small- and medium-sized businesses to protect jobs.

• Hiring 7,000 new front-line health care workers in long-term care and assisted living.

• Two million doses of flu vaccines

• Investing an additional 1 per cent of GDP in people and communities:

• A new Recovery Investment Fund to deliver $3 billion a year to drive new growth, building new schools, hospitals, roads, transit and more to create 18,000 jobs

• Demanding action by the federal government on paid sick leave

• Opening targeted training in the skills people need to work in high-demand fields, including health and child care.”

• Diane Janzen – BC Conservative

“British Columbia has fared quite well with the leadership of Dr. Bonnie Henry. That being said we are seeing, like other parts of the country, concerning increases and in COVID. I will work in collaboration with health officials and Dr. Bonnie Henry so we don’t have to go back into shut down, which no one wants to see. Another area of focus is the provision of strong COVID practices in schools and long term facilities. I have the experience in keeping staff and clients safe by ensuring the safety of more than 100 staff, 500 volunteers and clients at Chilliwack Community Services during this pandemic.”

• John Martin – BC Liberal Party

“The collaboration between all three parties was very constructive. The BC Liberals and Greens would have preferred to continue working together but John Horgan saw a political opportunity amid the pandemic and state of emergency and chose to violate the Fixed Election Date Law and his promise to the Lieutenant Governor not to call an early election unless he lost a confidence vote; which was not going to happen. The Premier should have pushed hard in the early days to pressure the federal government to close the border. Within 6o days of taking office a BC Liberal Government will establish an emergency Pandemic Response Committee to work with all parties and the Provincial Health Officer on a collaborative approach to managing the current and future pandemics, including accelerating provincial aid and supports for small businesses and individuals impacted by COVID-19.”

–––

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

• Josue Anderson – Independent

“A direct tax on hyper-wealth, including real-estate assets would prevent the world’s Billionaires from inflating housing prices and manipulating market supply. The province should empower municipalities to build, not only free housing for the unsheltered, but also a municipal-run option that competes with the private market while seeing housing primarily as a right, not an investment opportunity. There are models used around the world that we can adapt for a BC context.”

• Andrew Coombes – 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.”

• Tim Cooper – BC Green Party

“If there was an easy answer to this it would have been solved years ago. As the population increases here, and building is limited, high house prices are unavoidable. Temporary relief can be obtained by making it easier to build new housing which might lower the price. But lower prices would attract more folk to B.C. pushing prices back up.”

• Dan Coulter – BC NDP

“In the first few years since we launched our new Homes for BC 10-year housing plan, we’ve made good progress on our commitment to deliver 114,000 new affordable homes for people in communities of all sizes. To date, we have more than 25,000 homes complete or underway, in all categories of housing, from homes with supports for those experiencing homelessness and the first investment in new housing for women and children fleeing violence in two decades, to new indigenous housing both on- and off-reserve, new mixed-income rental housing for people with low to moderate incomes, and thousands of new market rental units for middle-income families and individuals.

“New policies, like the Speculation and Vacancy Tax, have turned more than 11,000 empty homes into new rental homes. While the BC Liberals would cancel this tax, and roll back the progress we’ve made, we will continue to build on our efforts so far to deliver more homes that people can afford to rent or buy.

“There is much more to do, and our government will again work to deliver the homes that all of our communities need, by:

• Freezing rents until the end of 2021, and capping rent increases at inflation after that;

• Introducing a renter’s rebate, to provide renters with $400/year;

• Streamlining development approvals, with new provincial funding to support the efforts that many local governments are already undertaking, while we act to make the provincial permit and approval process more efficient as well with a new single-window permitting process;

• Eliminating unnecessary parking minimums in new developments near transit investments, allowing for more affordable transit-oriented housing options for people to rent or buy;

• Bringing new rental developments to communities for people of all income levels

• Tackling the rising cost of strata insurance – and if rates aren’t corrected by the end of 2021, we will develop a public strata insurance option.”

• Diane Janzen – BC Conservative

“The NDP only met three per cent of its affordable housing promises. I would work with the City of Chilliwack, BC Housing and CMHC to provide more affordable housing here in Chilliwack. This advocacy would look to match the demand for housing with the kind of housing that is needed. Affordable housing is a key priority in preventing homelessness. This means housing in terms of rental or ownership that is targeted to families and individuals who are middle income or low income. I have extensive experience and success in running housing including the Village for youth and those with mental health diagnosis, providing 10 years of safe housing. In my role at Chilliwack Community Services I have successfully worked with all levels of government on our planned Paramount Project providing more than 60 units of affordable housing for seniors. British Columbia has also fared poorly in its access of federal funding and I would work on those partnerships.”

• John Martin – BC Liberal Party

“The BC Liberals will implement the most comprehensive housing affordability strategy in North America, to provide new supply and affordable housing options for all British Columbians. This will include:

• An incentive fund for municipalities with housing policies that enable demonstrable increases in the construction and supply of new housing.

• Implement tax and permitting changes to boost housing supply, including rental and market housing, to increase choice and improve affordability for British Columbians.

• Work with municipalities to review the current property tax structure to incent affordable housing development, prevent speculation and drive affordable rental housing.

• Ensure no net loss of rental units in real estate redevelopment projects.

• Develop tax-relief measures to help people hurt by COVID-19 economic impacts to keep

their homes.

• Create a new residential property sub-class for rental housing of three or more units.

• Change BC Assessment practices to ensure rental properties are no longer valued based

on the highest and best use, but rather on actual rental use.

• Provide energy-efficiency rebates on rental renovations.

• Use provincial and municipal land for affordable housing.

• Enable affordable condominium strata insurance by: encouraging and facilitating self-insurance models for stratas; eliminating the practice of “best-terms” pricing; and reducing

statutorily-required insurance for strata properties from full replacement value to a level in

line with actual claims cost history.

• Reduce delays in building-permit approvals and new homeowner costs.”

–––

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?

• Josue Anderson – Independent

“My policy (found at josueanderson.ca) has always been firm. The overdose crisis is really a poisoned drug supply crisis. Substance users are currently forced to purchase their supplies on the black market which is what is killing people. Governments must treat all people with dignity and compassion and under my comprehensive tax plan, the burden wouldn’t fall on those already struggling to make ends meet.”

• Andrew Coombes – 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.”

• Tim Cooper – BC Green Party

“The Green Party (and myself) support the Portuguese model where drugs are decriminalised. Users can then more openly get help. Considering the cost of dealing with the crisis, diverting some funds to safe houses where users can get clean needles and inject with supervision is important. Moreover in such places they could find support to end their addiction, including clean drugs to help slowly wean them off. This will not only help them, but reduce crime and expense for the rest of us. The key is to understand that addicts are victims, not criminals, although I would not say the same for the drug pushers and suppliers.”

• Dan Coulter – BC NDP

“The overdose crisis is one of the biggest public health emergencies of our time and a top priority for the BC NDP. That is why we created the Ministry of Mental Health & Addictions and we’ve put more resources toward this crisis in BC than ever before. We have also ramped up evidence-based treatment, harm reduction and prevention efforts across B.C., including overdose prevention services, and connecting people to treatment.

“Before the pandemic, we still had a long way to go, but our collective efforts were making a difference. In 2019, we saw the first drop in the rate of overdose deaths since 2012. When the overdose crisis was compounded by the COVID-19 pandemic, ours was the only provincial government that responded across the full continuum of care: expanding treatment, recovery, harm reduction and safe prescription alternatives. Prevention is key focus especially when protecting and supporting youth impacted by the overdose crisis. That’s why we’re doubling youth treatment beds from 104 to 247. From there we’ll add another 800 treatment beds and build new treatment/recovery/detox facilities across BC, – including new First Nations treatment centres – and we’ll further strengthen regulations for private operators to keep people safe.

“A major focus in the BC NDP’s efforts has been in providing safe prescription alternatives to the toxic drug supply. We have also been clear in our call to the federal government for decriminalization of simple possession so people can be treated like patients in the health care system as they should be. A re-elected BC NDP government will work with police chiefs to push Ottawa to decriminalize simple possession of small amounts of illicit drugs for personal use. This will help police focus on the big criminals making and selling these drugs.”

• Diane Janzen – BC Conservative

“My focus and that of the BC Conservatives is to have a stronger focus on prevention, treatment and enforcement. If safe supply was the only focus then we would have seen a dramatic decline of deaths around the downtown east side and the opposite has been true. In prevention this means working with youth in particular to prevent use in the first place. It means greater licensed treatment beds here in Chilliwack including a sobering centre and detox (which was cut under the BC Liberals), and greater enforcement including supporting greater police presence in the downtown and going after prolific drug dealers. I firmly believe we need to overhaul the entire system and develop a provincial approach that demonstrates results. Under the NDP we have seen the highest number and increase in opioid deaths in BC history since it was declared an emergency in 2016. The fact of the matter is that we cannot focus on one leg of the stool but on all elements. We should be taking direction from places like Portugal that have actually made significant progress.”

• John Martin – BC Liberal Party

“Safe Supply certainly has a major role in the opioid crisis and saves lives. It is essential in preventing overdoses and much of the criminal activity and disrepute associated with addictions. For many people suffering an addiction, Safe Supply is literally the difference between life and death. It’s important to note that harm reduction is just one of the Four Pillars required to tackle addictions. Prevention, treatment and enforcement are also critical. A BC Liberal Government will treat the causes and prevent the harm through the following:

• Increase addiction-treatment and recovery programs, and ensure those who need help getting off drugs have a clear pathway to treatment, unlike the NDP’s approach of simply warehousing people with addictions.

• Clearly recognize that addiction is a medical disorder, and ensure a focus on public health and safety in the treatment of people suffering from addictions.

• Increase mental health supports in public secondary schools, such as registered psychiatric nurses.

• Introduce a Safe Care Act to safely and ethically help young people with addictions into treatment.

• End the funding discrimination that continues to disqualify abstinence-based treatment programs.

• Implement a provincial prescription-drug monitoring program to prevent addiction with early referrals to specialist care and treatment options.”

–––

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

• Josue Anderson – Independent

“I believe despite rapid technological innovations, we’ve become extremely socially disconnected from each other. This isn’t just you, it’s systemic and we see that in rising anxiety, depression, and suicide rates. We’ve grown afraid to express ourselves freely because the diversity of thought in our society is so wide that it’s easy to be viewed as hostile or ignorant regardless of whatever views you hold. Major political parties contribute to this by creating communication friction with their constituents, and public trust for government institutions is rapidly deteriorating. As the MLA for Chilliwack, I would combat this social detachment caused within the government as well as the detachment caused by dramatic wealth inequality.”

• Andrew Coombes – 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.”

• Tim Cooper – BC Green Party

“With all the smoke in the air in the last few years, rainstorms and hot dry summers I like to believe climate change is now top of mind. Voters that have young children and grandchildren are wondering if the planet can support them 50 years from now. The short answer to that question is that it depends on what type of government is elected here and elsewhere. BC currently uses almost one billion dollars per year of tax payers money to subsidize the largely foreign-owned fossil fuel industry. This prevents BC from developing large amounts of renewable power which would otherwise employ almost 3 times the number of people that the fossil fuel companies do, and keep the taxes on the profits in BC.”

• Dan Coulter – BC NDP

“Top of mind for voters in Chilliwack is how to get through the pandemic. People aren’t sure what lies ahead and people are worried. John Horgan’s plan keeps BC moving forward, for all of us. It’s a plan that will help get people through the pandemic and ensure everyone benefits from the economic recovery.

“While Andrew Wilkinson promises tax cuts for those who need them least, John’s plan focuses on people who need help the most. Workers and small businesses are put in the front of economic recovery – not the wealthy and well-connected.

“There is still more to do and the BC NDP will keep supporting people through the recovery and will address the gaps the pandemic has exposed, so that we emerge more resilient than before. The commitments made by the NDP build on the progress we’ve made to improve health care, create jobs and opportunities, and make life more affordable for everyone.

“In Chilliwack and across BC everyone deserves to have a home and to feel safe in their community. John Horgan is the only leader with a with a real plan to tackle the challenges we are facing. Challenges that have been compounded by COVID-19. That’s why we’re introducing a COVID-19 Recovery Benefit that will provide $1000 for families whose annual household income is under $62,000 and $500 for individuals whose income is less than $125,000.

“With your support, we can continue to move BC forward – investing in people, and delivering the programs and services that matter most to you.”

• Diane Janzen – BC Conservative

“I think that the issue of strong representation for Chilliwack is the most important issue for Chilliwack voters. In my travels it has become clear that voters want someone who is going to fight for them and for Chilliwack – on health care, on Highway 1, on education and do so in a responsible way. I will be a strong advocate for Chilliwack, working in partnership with all levels of government, and getting things done for Chilliwack.”

• John Martin – BC Liberal Party

“Housing affordability, health care, crime, childcare, addictions and cost of living are typically among the areas of most concern expressed to me as MLA.

“But now during the pandemic people are terrified of losing their job, home and/or business. Almost 1.2 million British Columbians were forced to rely on federal COVID-19 benefits because they were unable to work. Another shutdown would be devastating for the province.

“The pandemic has caused urgent challenges for us all, in our schools, hospitals, seniors’ homes and child care centres.

“We need strong, disciplined and competent leadership that will bring security, recovery, and opportunity.

“This is a critical time. We need to act quickly and urgently to ease the burdens and reduce the pressures facing people and businesses across BC.

“The BC Liberal plan makes smart, disciplined investments in people, communities and businesses, to improve livelihoods, and the health and well-being of all British Columbians.

“The BC Liberals will make our communities safer, stimulate economic recovery, and grow our economy. My commitment is to work together and collaborate to Restore Confidence and Rebuild BC.”

• READ MORE: BC VOTES: Chilliwack-Kent 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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