Jeers and cheers as Delta North candidates debate teachers, donations

NDP and Liberal supporters weren't shy about showing their feelings at the final Delta North all candidates debate.

Candidates Scott Hamilton (Liberal)

Candidates Scott Hamilton (Liberal)

Delta North’s provincial election candidates were subject to jeers, cheers and highly specific questions during the April 26 all candidates meeting at North Delta Secondary.

Liberal candidate Scott Hamilton suffered the most abuse from exuberant NDP supporters, especially during the candidates’ discussion of the BCTF settlement and how education could be improved.

Watch video of the meeting here.

NDP candidate Ravi Kahlon spoke first.

“I think it’s amazing to think about for a moment and reflect that it took the Supreme Court of Canada to tell the current government to —” Kahlon’s sentence was cut off by the cheers and claps from his supporters on the far side of the room.

He mentioned the NDP’s promise to provide $20 million for school supplies, saying it was an opportunity to provide resources, as well as teachers and support services.

When Hamilton took the mic, he sounded more antagonistic than usual.

“I need to start out about one thing, because I want to be clear about something,” he said. “The Supreme Court did not mandate the money being paid. The Supreme Court mandated issues around language that dealt with class size and composition” — a someone from the seats said “hear hear” at this — “they basically said go back to the table and renegotiate.

“We could have done that, we could have been in a stalemate —”

Audience members broke in with laughter. Hamilton tried to continue speaking, but some people began booing and talking over him, saying “yeah, yeah” and “oh, for crying out loud.”

Moderator Les Voros asked the audience for a “time out” so Hamilton could continue answering the question.

“People can think whatever they want,” Hamilton continued when it was quiet, “but that was the Supreme Court decision.

“But we decided we were going to do the right thing, and we were simply going to reimplement. And we were going to reinstate that language. That’s all.”

He then went on to describe the Liberal’s spending on education since 2001, and said the NDP during the 1990s “didn’t build one school. Not one additional classroom. Not one.”

Green candidate Jacquie Miller spoke in between Kahlon and Hamilton, and focused strongly on the Green Party’s promise to provide free child care and 25 hours a week of early childhood education, as well as $4 billion over four years for public education as a whole.

Although the audience broke in several times throughout the debate with “hear hear”s and cheering, the question that was the most heated among the three candidates was on corporate and union donations.

Hamilton spoke first, and called out the NDP for taking “the largest campaign donation in political history” from the UnitedSteelworkers. The NDP received more than $600,000 from the union’s U.S. headquarters and various locals.

Hamilton said the Liberals are playing by the rules we have now, but will be looking at campaign donation rules in the future.

Kahlon took his shot at the Liberals in the first sentence of his answer: “If you live in a glass house, don’t throw rocks.”

“I was kind of chuckling at Scott’s comment there,” he said. “We have brought forward legislation six years in a row to ban corporate and union donations. It should be out of the political system.”

NDP supporters clapped and cheered at this — one person near the back, likely not an NDP-supporter, stated, “You took the money.”

At the previous Delta North all candidates debate, Miller spoke strongly about the need for political parties to ban corporate and union campaign donations. At this one she was calm, simply stating the Green party had banned those kinds of campaign donations for its own party in advance of the election. She also noted the party’s promise to ban donations from people outside of B.C.

“Our democracy needs to work for us the people,” she said. “There’s a lack of confidence in our electoral system.”

The event was the last all candidates meeting in Delta North before the May 9 election.

Other topics at the all candidates debate

Healthcare:

The 3.36 care hours per resident per day mandate was brought up by both Kahlon and Hamilton — although Kahlon focused on Delta’s four (out of six) care facilities that are below the recommended care level and Hamilton focused on theLiberal government’s funding commitment to care homes.

Miller was brief and to the point, mentioning the Green’s commitment to bring in more nurse practitioners.

Economy:

Miller said the Green party would invest $50 million into training for employees in small businesses, as those employers don’t often have the resources to give their employees the benefits offered by large corporations. They would also put $50million a year in business incubators.

Hamilton pointed to the Liberal’s commitment to lowering business tax rate to two per cent. This would benefit small businesses because they eventually become large businesses “and the better we treat them and the better we make this environment for them to thrive … the more they drive our economy,” he said.

Kahlon talked about his family’s restaurant in Victoria.

“I know in our family, when times were bad you were stressed and when they got good you were still stressed,” he said.

He said the NDP is also committed to lowering business tax rate to two per cent, and would create a small business task force.

British Columbia’s resource sector was also discussed, with all candidates agreeing that B.C. would remain a resource-based economy. However, Miller also pointed to a needed transition towards a high-tech economy as well.

Real Estate:

Kahlon focused on transit hubs as a solution for both small businesses and housing affordability.

He said building density around rapid transit stations could make housing more affordable, as developers wouldn’t have to dig into the ground to build parkades, and increase traffic for local businesses.

Hamilton said the Liberals plan on tying the property transfer tax to all new housing, and those fees will be going towards providing new housing options for a variety of needs.

He also said there needs to be help for people purchasing former grow-ops. The value of the home is decreased, and if the owner does the necessary renovations that stigma should be removed from the property.

Miller commented on the inequity of the foreign-buyer’s tax, which is restricted to the Lower Mainland.

“It creates a zone from which people on the other side of the zone can profit more from selling their home to foreign buyers,” she said.

Miller said the Green party would raise the foreign buyer’s tax to 30 per cent and extend the tax across the province.