Conservative Mark Strahl speaks during the all-candidates meeting at the Coast Chilliwack Hotel on Thursday.

Letter sparks candidate controversy

Conservative candidate Mark Strahl reacted swiftly to media reports that he had “misconstrued” a letter from the Chilliwack Chamber of Commerce as an endorsement of his bid for election.

Conservative candidate Mark Strahl reacted swiftly to media reports that he had “misconstrued” a letter from the Chilliwack Chamber of Commerce as an endorsement of his bid for election.

“I did nothing of the sort,” Strahl said in a Thursday news release.

“I simply read from a letter that they wrote, which is posted on the Chilliwack Chamber of Commerce’s own website,” he said. “The letter speaks for itself and could not be more clear in its support of a low tax policy for Canadian businesses.”

In an earlier news release, issued after Strahl read the letter at an all-candidates meeting hosted by the chamber, executive director Lisa Caruth said the chamber’s position on federal corporate income tax rates “should not be misread” as an endorsement for any particular candidate or political party.

“No information was made available to any candidate prior to the event, with the exception of information the public can find at www.chilliwackchamber.com,” she said.

However, she goes on to say that the specific passage read by Strahl was from a letter sent to his father, former MP Chuck Strahl, on March 2, before the election was called.

“Taxation is one of the policy priority areas identified by our membership, therefore a letter to our local MP at the time was relevant and an appropriate action to take,” she said.

Dogged from the start of the election campaign by allegations that his nomination was “tainted” by his relationship to the former MP, and by its short duration, Strahl has also been fending off criticism for missing all-candidates meetings in Hope and Chilliwack.

The candidate said he missed both meetings because of “prior campaign commitments.”

Last week, Strahl announced he would do a “telephone townhall” meeting Wednesday night, and Liberal candidate Diane Janzen reported she held a similar meeting the same night.

Yesterday (Monday), New Democratic candidate Gwen O’Mahony said her party decided not to hold a “telephone townhall” in which calls are made to voters across the Chilliwack-Fraser Canyon riding.

“I don’t think they’re all that effective,” she said. “People are sick to death of telemarketing schemes.”

About the chamber letter, O’Mahony said she was “caught off guard” by the question put to Strahl at the end of the meeting.

“I would have loved a re-direct on that letter,” she said, but it wasn’t possible under the question-and-answer format of the meeting.

She said it’s her understanding that many chamber members would prefer more tax breaks for small businesses rather than large corporations and multinationals.

“I fail to see the trickle-down effects of the (Conservative) corporate tax breaks for local businesses here,” she said.

Liberal candidate Diane Janzen said she didn’t consider the letter an endorsement of Strahl, but she questioned his reading it at the all-candidates meeting.

If Strahl was trying to get the chamber’s endorsement, she said, “it’s certainly not the way I would have done things.”

In response to pre-submitted questions, Green Party candidate Jamie Hoskins said smart investors are putting their money into “green” alternatives that will create jobs and protect the environment.

O’Mahony said with “smart management” by an NDP government the federal deficit can be reduced without cutting social services.

Marxist-Leninist candidate Dorothy-Jean O’Donnell said the immigration and refugee process in Canada needs to be over-hauled to end the abuse of temporary workers brought to Canada “with no prospect of being able to make a life here.”

She said the government’s current focus on temporary workers has “serious similarities to slavery.”

Clive Edwards, Western Block Party candidate, said Canada should not be sending troops to Afghanistan in support of the U.S. war effort.

“I don’t believe we should be supporting the Americans in their wars of conquest,” he said.

Strahl said the Conservative party, the longest-serving minority government in Canadian history, has worked “cooperatively” with every party, but would not consider a coalition that includes the Bloc Quebecois.

“Where we will not go … is allowing a party dedicated to the breakup of Canada by giving them a hand on the levers of power,” he said.

Janzen said if elected, she would sit down with the provincial and municipal governments to work on a “cooperative vision” for transportation based on a regional transit study.

“Our local transit is inadequate,” she said.

rfreeman@theprogress.com

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