Candidates for Newton-North Delta squared off on Wednesday at the Delta Lions pub.

Newton-North Delta, grilled on the issues

All-candidates meeting packed with more than 80 residents

Laddie and Rose Kodak are pretty sure they’re voting Conservative in this election, but they showed up to an all-candidates meeting in North Delta Tuesday night to make sure they’re well-acquainted with the competition.

The two seniors have 70 years combined teaching in Delta, so they’re familiar with NDP candidate Jinny Sims, former president of the B.C. Teachers Federation.

The all-candidates meeting for Newton-North Delta was attended by five federal hopefuls, including Ravi Gill (Independent), Sam Hammond (Communist), Mani Fallon (Conservative), Sukh Dhaliwal (Liberal), and Sims. Green party candidate Liz Walker did not attend.

The candidates have made no secret about where they stand on the issues in what is described as a battleground riding.

Despite going head-to-head with game four of the Canucks-Black Hawk series, more than 80 people shoehorned into the small room at the Delta Lions pub in North Delta to hear the candidates speak.

Questions were taken from the audience, vetted, and asked by moderator Beau Simpson.

The first question asked what candidates would do to protect quality access to health care.

Hammond said the problem isn’t for lack of wealth in this country, it’s got to do with ownership and distribution of weatlh. Money now slated for tax cuts and billions committed for the purchase of fighter planes could be better spent on health care, he said.

Fallon said the Conservatives have increased the federal health transfers to the provinces by 33 per cent during their time in government.

Gill said it will require the construction of more hospitals.

Dhaliwal said the Liberals have always been supportive of unversal health care and vow to increase spending on the service by six per cent annually.

Sims said Canada’s heatlh care system is “a gift from Tommy Douglas,” referring to leader of the Co-operative Commonwealth Federation, which joined another party to become the NDP.

She said money going to corporate tax cuts and war planes could instead be spent on more doctors, nurses and in-home support care.

Gill said health care must be dealt with locally, where there’s a better awareness of needs.

The next question asked how the candidates would protect seniors.

Dhaliwal said it’s important for people to be able to “retire with dignity.” For that, the government needs to protect the Canada Pension Plan.

Sims said seniors “built our province and our nation.” She agreed that it’s critical to protect pensions, and said it’s also important to have Empoyment Insurance extensions.

Hammond said too many people in this country, seniors and young alike, live in poverty.

Fallon said in order to protect seniors, government must maintain protections everyone wants, including the a viable health care system, serious policies to reduce crime, and a strong economy. Fallon said that would include allowing income splitting (the process of redirecting income within a family to take advantage of the lower tax brackets, deductions and credits).

Tempers began to flare when the spector was raised of a coalition among the NDP, Liberals and the Bloc.

Dhaliwal said the only time there was a coalition was when Harper joined forces with other parties to try to take down the Liberal government.

Sims called the discussion of coalitions a “bogeyman” that has no place in the formation of good policy.

Hammond said there’s nothing wrong with a coalition, as long as it’s aim is to best represent the people who elected them in the first place.

On the way out of the meeting, Delta seniors Laddie and Rose were unswayed by what they heard.

“Did you believe any of that?” Laddie aked. “It was entertaining.”

Rose wondered aloud why so many of the answers seemed dodgy.

“Why didn’t any of them answer the questions?”