The South Surrey White Rock Chamber of Commerce had billed it as an all-candidates meeting for the local riding in the current federal election.
But, through no fault of the chamber, one candidate was missing and one appeared only some of the time during the Sept. 9 online meeting.
South Surrey-White Rock Conservative candidate Kerry-Lynne Findlay, who had been injured in a fall at her home a day earlier, was unable to appear.
A signal-freezing technical issue with his computer also sidelined Liberal candidate Gordie Hogg for a while, during which remaining candidates June Liu (NDP) and Gary Jensen (People’s Party of Canada) answered several questions – although moderator Lance Peverley did recap some questions for his response when Hogg was able to reconnect to the meeting again.
The meeting nonetheless gave viewers insights into participating candidates’ individual beliefs and styles.
“At the end of the day I believe that we need to protect our freedoms,” said Jensen said in his concluding statement.
“I’m a small-government guy, and I think these ideological taxes and stuff – there’s no real proof that the money goes where it needs to go,” he said.
“I think you’re hampering small business, you’re hampering Canadian individuals and families, you’re keeping them from their goals when you’re taxing them into oblivion. We need to open up and be free; get rid of these silly mandates and this major government over-reach because of COVID.”
Over the course of questions, Jensen had noted the carbon tax was an example of the kind of “ideological” taxation he opposed. He also said that the federal government, through the Bank of Canada, should reduce inflation rates to “zero” to help with economic recovery, that he favoured limiting immigration, and that infrastructure work such as pipeline projects would improve living and economic conditions for Canada’s Indigenous population.
Liu noted her party’s history of “fighting for better working conditions and standards that lift everybody up – and that is including small businesses, that’s including families and making sure that our community is being supported.”
“We know that good jobs treat people fairly and make a real difference to Canadian families, and that setting Canadian people up for success in the work world benefits all of us and benefits our future,” she said. “You always start thinking of ways that can help our recovery from the COVID-19 crisis and make our economy fair and deliver what we want.”
In response to a question on approaches to pandemic recovery, Liu said an NDP government would “ensure that those who have profited most through the pandemic are the ones that are paying for pandemic recovery.
“We want to go after the big companies that have paid next to nothing in taxes – companies like Google, Facebook, Netflix and Amazon,” she said.
Throughout the forum, Hogg stood by his party’s record, saying that it had made significant progress in areas such as fighting COVID-19 and addressing climate change through new policies that set measurable, achievable goals.
The Liberal government has also taken effective action, he said, in increasing post-pandemic employment levels, providing affordable daycare, and in increasing the national housing supply and the opportunity for Canadians to be able to afford their own homes.
“There’s a lot of need for us to have co-ordinated, integrated approaches to things,” he said.
“We have to ensure the federal government has a way of integrating and co-ordinating with provinces, and we’ve seen that with things like daycare and a number of other things.
“I have been fortunate to have worked in government on all three levels and have seen ways that we can coordinate that kind of strategy.”
In an emailed statement to Peace Arch News later that afternoon, Findlay said her fall left her scraped up and with a sprained wrist.
“Unfortunately I missed a few events that I was very much looking forward to attending,” she said. “My apologies to the organizers and the participants. I have a full slate of events over the next week so hopefully we can connect further.”
Findlay thanked those who had wished her well following word on Wednesday (Sept. 8) that she’d been taken to hospital, and said she was looking forward to getting back on the campaign trail Friday (Sept. 10).
PAN also reached out to Hogg following the debate to offer him the chance to weigh in with thoughts on anything he may have missed due to his technical issues. He said that though he hadn’t heard the sections that he had missed, he felt he was given an opportunity during the forum to comment on most key questions, though he said he would have liked to have discussed the proposed moratorium on coal trains travelling through Canada – a proposal that was recently announced by the Liberals.
- with files from Tracy Holmes