ELECTION 2015: Federal candidates face off for last time in Chilliwack-Hope riding

Chamber of Commerce hosted lunch and candidates meeting just days before Canadians vote

Chilliwack-Hope candidates Dorothy-Jean O'Donnell

Chilliwack-Hope candidates Dorothy-Jean O'Donnell

With election day finally just around the corner, the final all candidates meeting for Chilliwack-Hope brought out all six hopefuls.

The Chilliwack Chamber of Commerce hosted the one-hour event at the Coast Hotel Thursday afternoon, in which the candidates were lobbed about six different questions.

Many of those questions gave the candidates a chance to reiterate points made at debates earlier in the campaign, from worries about security and the economy, to more pointed observations about refugees and missing and murdered First Nation women.

And, once again, Conservative candidate Mark Strahl took some heat for perceptions that he didn’t do enough to connect with constituents over the last term.

When asked what the biggest issue was in Chilliwack-Hope, one candidate noted it was a lack of a relationship with the MP.

“We didn’t have a relationship with the federal government because we don’t have a relationship with Mark Strahl,” said Liberal candidate Louis De Jaeger.

Strahl recently held the position of Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Aboriginal Affairs and Northern Development, and De Jaeger pointed the finger of blame directly at Strahl for the lack of change in First Nation reserves with extreme poverty.

“He has not done a very good job,” he said.

But Strahl pointed to other problems in the riding, based on what he said constituents have contacted him about.

“The two issues I’ve heard are criminal justice reform, and the economy,” he said. He outlined some of the promises made by the Conservatives, and initiatives they’re already working toward, including a change this year to how the government subsidizes families with young children.

“We believe Canadians know best how to spend their own money,” he said.

Thomas Cheney, Green Party candidate, said providing proper transit would help revive the economy. His plan includes reviving the old Interurban light rail line.

Seonaigh MacPherson, NDP candidate, said it would be her party’s priority to help Canada’s most “disenfranchised” group, young children.

“Forty per cent of children here are entering kindergarten vulnerable,” she said. “We need to ask and challenge ourselves, if we are giving them the best start.”

Libertarian candidate Alexander Johnson echoed De Jaeger’s feeling the Chilliwack-Hope isn’t well represented.

“People don’t feel like their voices are being heard,” he said.

Dorothy-Jean O’Donnell, candidate for the Marxist-Leninist Party, said the first issue is to “defeat Stephen Harper,” a comment met with laughter.

“But the second most important issue is how to bring about democratic renewal,” she added. Changing the way Canada votes was the theme underlining most of O’Donnell’s responses, and she urged voters to “vote with your conscience.”