Cloverdale-Langley City federal candidates, from left Caelum Nutbrown (Greens) Ian Kennedy (PPC) Rae Banwarie (NDP) John Aldag (Liberals) and Tamara Jansen (Conservatives), spoke at an all-candidates meeting Monday night in Langley City. (Matthew Claxton/Langley Advance Times)

Cloverdale-Langley City candidates tackle SNC-Lavalin, pipelines, gangs at debate

An all-candidates meeting saw dozens of questions lobbed at federal candidates

Candidates in Cloverdale-Langley City covered topics from oil pipelines to recent shootings at an all-candidates meeting Monday evening at Langley’s Kwantlen Polytechnic University campus.

A question on gun control and gang violence, presented by moderator Frank Bucholtz, was sparked by the recent daylight murder in the Clayton neighbourhood, part of the Cloverdale-Langley City riding.

“Right now, gun violence is out of control,” said Rae Banwarie of the NDP.

The former RCMP officer said the NDP would reduce the ability of criminals to get firearms.

Tamara Jansen of the Conservatives said her party would make it easier for police to target gang members and keep them in jail, while Liberal John Aldag spoke about the Liberals’ plan for a buyback of semi-automatic rifles and allowing municipal governments to ban handguns.

Ian Kennedy of the People’s Party of Canada (PPC) said law abiding gun owners should not be targeted and advocated clamping down at the border for smuggled firearms.

“We have to look at it from a sociological aspect,” said the Green Party’s Caelum Nutbrown, saying poverty and income inequality should be targeted with improved education for gang prevention.

A question on the SNC-Lavalin scandal and deferred prosecution agreements for law breaking corporations saw Liberal Aldag answer first.

He said the deferred prosecution legislation was put in place because Canada was the only G-7 nation without such a power, although it has also been widely reported that SNC-Lavalin lobbied the federal government for just such a law.

“We are committed to having that tool at the Crown’s disposal,” said Aldag.

Jansen noted that businesses have to be ethical, and it’s important that businesses that are honest are supported.

The other candidates took a harsher line.

“I come from a law and order background,” said Banwarie. “If companies break the law, they need to be held accountable.”

“It has really put a black mark on our government,” Kennedy said of the SNC-Lavalin scandal.

“Corporations need to be held accountable to the same laws that individuals are held accountable to,” said Nutbrown.

Justin Trudeau’s recent blackface scandal led to questions about how to counter bigotry in Canada.

Nutbrown and Kennedy were both forgiving of Trudeau, calling it a mistake.

“We have all made mistakes at some point in our lives,” said Nutbrown.

Banwarie used the question to point to a more recent incident, saying he was more concerned about Trudeau’s sarcastic response to an Indigenous woman who interrupted the PM at a fundraising speech last spring to raise concerns about contaminated drinking water.

The incident made Banwarie worry that Trudeau’s attitudes are not just in the past, he said.

Aldag said the incident has allowed for a number of discussions on doorsteps as he has campaigned in the community. He also said many communities in Canada may not know why blackface is considered demeaning, due to its history.

“Racism is absolutely abhorrent,” said Jansen, but she said all races and religions are accepted in Canada.

“We don’t have a problem with racism out there,” she said of the riding.

A question about health transfers led Jansen to talk about the Conservatives’ commitment to increasing health transfers and to insist the party supported the public health system.

“We’re not going for a two-tier system,” she said.

But Kennedy of the PPC was open to the idea of private health care.

“So that it helps ease the burden the current public health care system has,” he said.

Personal versus party platforms were at the center of a question of whether the candidates would reopen the abortion issue.

“No, I would not,” was Nutbrown’s entire answer.

“I’m not going to do anything to undermine a woman’s right to choose,” said Banwarie.

“We feel that Canadians want us to focus on much bigger issues,” said Aldag.

The Conservatives would not re-open the debate, but Jansen noted she herself is pro-life.

She used the question to attack the other parties for enforcing what she called “ideological conformity.”

The Trans Mountain Pipeline expansion came up, with candidates asked if they would support its completion.

Kennedy said he would, but also that he would like the project to be sold back to the private sector. The Liberal government bought the pipeline in 2018.

Aldag used the question to criticize previous PM Stephen Harper’s policies and the current Conservative campaign’s promise to scrap Bill C-69. Doing that would simply mean projects would wind up being thrown back into court proceedings instead of being built, Aldag said.

Jansen touted the Conservatives’ plans for Canadian energy independence by 2030.

“We’ll be firing on all cylinders across all sectors and regions,” she said.

“I would not agree with a pipeline,” said Nutbrown, calling oil a “sunset industry” that will be dying away in the future.

The NDP’s Banwarie said he couldn’t support the pipeline until the issues of First Nations people along the route are considered.

“All that’s needed is one spill, just one,” he said. “All you need is one tanker crash, and that’s the end of our coastal waterways.”

Organized by the Greater Langley Chamber of Commerce and sponsored by the Fraser Valley Real Estate Board, the event was one of two meetings to be held in Langley-area ridings.

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