From abortion to pipelines, pensions to terrorism, Langley-Aldergrove candidates covered a broad range of topics at Thursday night’s debate.
Moderated by Scott Johnston, president of the Greater Langley Chamber of Commerce, the debate drew a standing room only crowd of several hundred to the Township Civic Facility.
Candidates often managed to bounce from one question to a related topic, as with an early question about mapping flood plains.
“Ecological wisdom is one of the core values of the Green Party,” said candidate Simmi Dhillon.
Conservative Mark Warawa noted that the government has helped with dike upgrades and dredging work around Langley in the past.
“I wish I had had that question 10 years ago,” said Liberal Leon Jensen. When he was with the Canadian Forces, he oversaw a geomatics unit that could have done that kind of work, and he suggested the Forces could still be a part of a solution.
NDP candidate Margot Sangster said her party would support provincial and municipal mapping efforts.
“We know that there is going to be another flood, we just don’t know when,” she said. She then took a swipe at the Conservatives cuts to environmental science.
Lauren Southern summed up the Libertarian outlook in her answer.
“The federal government has over-extended its reach into far too many issues,” she said, and the project should be left to provinces and municipalities.
Senate reform saw many parties agreeing with one another, as eliminating the entire institution was a popular plan.
“The NDP would eliminate the Senate,” said Sangster. “From my point of view, it is an unnecessary burden on the Canadian taxpayer.”
Dhillon and Southern agreed on elimination.
Warawa noted that no one likes the status quo, but said that the government needs the provinces on board for major changes and said ideas such as term limits and elected senators could be considered.
Jensen also said talking to the provinces has to happen first.
Each party also had distinct plans on helping to fund local transit projects.
Dhillon noted the Greens’ pledge to funnel one per cent of the GST to local infrastructure projects.
Warawa touted the recent announcement of $700 million towards a proposed light rail project through Surrey to Langley City, as well as past partnerships.
Jensen talked about the Liberals plans for a $20 billion infrastructure plan over the coming decades while Sangster noted the NDP is promising $1.3 billion a ear over 20 years.
Southern said transit should be privatized.
With Syrian refugee crisis once again an issue, the candidates were asked if the country should do more to take in people fleeing the violence.
Sangster said that Canada is currently far under its annual refugee target, and that it could take in many more refugees while doing proper security checks.
“These people are fighting for their lives,” said Dhillon, also arguing to open the doors to more refugees.
Warawa pointed to past influxes of refugees and said that religious minorities in particular needed to be given a chance to come to Canada, but that security screening was needed.
Jensen said more needed to be done.
“There’s so many things that we could have done that just passed us by,” he said.
Southern drew a few boos for saying that Canada has no responsibility for taking in refugees and that they should go to neighbouring countries like Saudi Arabia.
On gun control, Sangster noted that her own sister hunts moose, but said that in general guns were too easily obtainable by too many people.
The Liberals won’t create a new Long Gun Registry and are focused on the criminal use of guns, said Jensen.
Warawa defended the use of rifles and shotguns and said the focus has to be on criminals.
Dhillon respects the use of guns for hunting, and said there needs to be attention on the U.S. as the source of most of Canada’s illegal weapons.
Southern departed from the pack by saying the Libertarians would repeal a broad swathe of gun regulations and make ownership legal.
The debate, organized by the Chamber of Commerce and the Fraser Valley Real Estate Board, is the last of the major all candidates meetings before the Oct. 19 election.