Langley East candidates field barrage of questions

The second Chamber of Commerce sponsored debate took place Thursday.

The four candidates running in the Langley East riding fielded more than 35 questions at an all-candidates meeting Thursday evening at the Langley Events Centre.

Moderated by Scott Johnston of the Greater Langley Chamber of Commerce, the event saw candidates kept to a strict 30-second time limit for answers.

Liberal Rich Coleman, Libertarian Alex Joehl, NDP candidate Inder Johal, and Green candidate Bill Masse all took part.

Questions included health care, the economy, and there were a number of questions about rapid growth, as the riding includes Willoughby.

• Questions on the doctor shortage and upgrading Langley Memorial Hospital:

“It took me five years to get a family doctor,” noted Johal, who talked about the NDP’s plan for team-based primary care and new urgent care centres to be built around the province.

Coleman talked about the Liberals past efforts, such as expanding doctor training in B.C. universities, and about recently announced upgrades that will expand the Langley Memorial emergency room.

Creating more long-term care spaces for seniors will free up hospital spaces, said Masse.

“What we’ll do is we’ll allow more private options,” said Libertarian Joehl.

• On the 216th Street overpass and interchange, which has drawn opposition from some Walnut Grove residents:

“Obviously, the 216th Street overpass is going to be built,” said Coleman. He said he would work with the Township on traffic calming to mitigate the effects of vehicles in the area, but emphasized it allows the province to widen the highway and reduce idling and traffic jams at other interchanges, like 200th Street.

Johal was concerned there was a lack of consultation with the community before the decision was made.

“That’s crazy, for something that big,” she said. The NDP candidate said she would talk to locals to create a solution.

• On what their party would do for Willoughby and it’s rapid growth:

Johal continued her theme of communicating with the locals. “I’m a big believer in hearing what the people have to say,” she said.

Coleman talked about the expansions of schools announced recently, including the new R.E. Mountain Secondary, and the conversion of the old R.E. Mountain into another middle school.

Masse noted that denser development is better for the environment.

“It’s compact, it’s easier to serve with public transit,” he said, also noting that he would make school expansion keep up with population expansion.

Joehl suggested allowing housing development in the ALR, noting that it may mean more suburban sprawl.

• On political fundraising:

“I don’t believe the taxpayers should pay for my election,” said Coleman, saying that he funds his campaigns with his own fundraisers. “Be open about it, be transparent,” he said.

Joehl agreed, but the NDP and Greens wanted to clamp down, with Masse suggesting a ban on union, corporate, and foreign donations.

“We haven’t waited until the law was changed to do the right thing,” Masse said, taking a shot at the NDP’s acceptance of union dollars.

Johal said one of the first pieces of NDP legislation if elected will be to take money out of elections, and she added they will ban out-of-province donations.

• On Kinder Morgan’s Trans Mountain pipeline expansion plans:

“We had five conditions with regard to Kinder Morgan, and they have been met,” Coleman said. “I don’t want to see it [oil] moving by rail,” he added, saying pipelines are safer.

“It’s completely detrimental to the environment,” Johal said.

Masse agreed, saying “The benefits to B.C. are not worth the risks.”

Joehl isn’t opposed to oil pipelines, but isn’t a fan of land expropriation needed to build them.

• On the minimum wage:

“We want to take the politics out of minimum wage determination,” said Masse, leaving changes up to a Fair Wage Commission.

“We need to increase minimum wage to $15 an hour,” said Johal, saying people need to be able to live on their wages, and that it would boost the economy. “From there, possibly go higher,” she added.

Coleman said the Liberals support incremental annual increases in the minimum wage. “We need to work with business and communities,” he said. Their increases provide more stability, he said.

“Minimum wage hurts, period,” said Joehl.