Back-to-back debates let Cloverdale-Langley City candidates answer a host of questions Wednesday.
NDP candidate Rebecca Smith, Liberal John Aldag, and Conservative Dean Drysdale fielded questions in a debate moderated by Scott Johnston, president of the Greater Langley Chamber of Commerce at the evening debate. Green candidate Scott Anderson did not attend.
The candidates staked out different positions on several issues.
Asked about the Trans-Pacific Partnership trade deal, Aldag was cautious.
“The Liberal Party has always supported trade,” he said.
“But we need to see exactly what’s in the details,” Aldag added.
Drysdale was supportive of the deal negotiated by the Conservatives.
“This creates huge opportunities for us,” he said, touting his party’s efforts with past deals. “Almost all of those deals were signed by Conservative governments, and we’ve all prospered as a result.”
Smith was sceptical, citing promised $4 billion in compensation to dairy farmers and $1 billion to the auto industry.
“In my world, you don’t compensate unless you know there are going to be losses,” she said.
Drysdale fielded a question about whether he supported equal rights for gay Canadians.
“Equal rights for gay people,” was his entire reply.
The other candidates picked up on the question and slammed the Conservatives, Smith for bill C-24, which allows Canadians convicted of terrorism-related offences to be deported and stripped of citizenship if they are dual citizens.
“If you commit a crime, your crime is punishable in Canada, under Canadian law,” said Smith, who accused the Conservatives of created two classes of Canadians.
Aldag referred to the debate over the niqab and whether it should be worn during citizenship ceremonies or by federal workers.
“I’m tired of wedge politics,” Aldag said.
Drysdale said C-24 was sparked by a Canadian who went to fight with ISIS and burned his passport – should the government give him a new one, Drysdale asked sarcastically.
On income splitting, Aldag attacked the Tories.
“It benefits only 15 per cent of the wealthiest Canadians,” Aldag said, noting the Liberal promise to scrap the program, except for seniors.
He touted a promised Liberal child benefit program instead. Smith also said the NDP would similarly stop income splitting except for seniors.
“I don’t understand how these two parties believe they can build a country by attacking successful people,” Drysdale said. He went on to attack the NDP’s economic record when they were in power in B.C.
On climate change, Drysdale said he was “an optimist when it comes to this.”
“We can solve these problems, we can usually solve them with technology,” Drysdale said.
“Optimism alone is no longer going to save our planet,” said Smith.
She attacked the Conservatives for cutting protection for waterways, among other environmental issues.
The same three candidates also debated earlier that day in a meeting organized by seniors groups.
The first question was over security of pensions.
Aldag highlighted the Conservative decision to push back the age for various retirement benefits to 67, while talking about the Liberal promise to raise the Guaranteed Income Supplement by 10 per cent.
“It really can make the difference between being below poverty and above poverty,” Aldag said.
Drysdale said Canadian pensions are secure, then talked about how other governments, like Greece, are having severe financial issues. He blamed that on governments that overspent.
“I’m glad to say that we’re not doing that in Canada,” Drysdale said.
Smith said it was a matter of priorities.
“We need to understand that it’s not an either/or, and it’s not a choice, it’s our moral obligation to our seniors,” she said.
On a question about a national housing strategy, both Liberal and NDP candidates were supportive, while the Conservative was not.
“I guess I’m a Conservative because I don’t believe all problems are best solved at the national level,” said Drysdale.
Different regions have different housing issues, he said.
Smith said housing was a fundamental right of all Canadians.
She added that the NDP was pushing for a national Pharmacare program so seniors wouldn’t have to choose between paying for their health or their homes.
Aldag took a shot at Conservative claims of fiscal responsibility.
“The Conservative government went on a real spending spree, but didn’t leave legacies behind,” Aldag said. He pointed to his own party’s promises of new funding for infrastructure across the country.