There’s no lack of interest in the federal election among voters in South Surrey-White Rock on the Semiahmoo Peninsula – judging by the crowd that packed the first all-candidates meeting Friday night (Oct. 4) at the White Rock Community Centre.
An estimated 300 people were there early for the meeting, hosted by the White Rock BIA and South Surrey-White Rock Chamber of Commerce (with sponsorship from the Fraser Valley Real Estate Board and CARP).
And while the majority of those attending appeared evenly split between supporters of Liberal incumbent Gordie Hogg and Conservative Kerry-Lynne Findlay, others appeared receptive to ideas voiced by the NDP’s Stephen Crozier and the Green Party’s Pixie Hobby, while Joel Poulin of the newly-formed People’s Party of Canada drew only a smattering of applause, particularly after he expressed some reluctance to embrace popular views on climate change.
Moderated by former Peace Arch News editor Lance Peverley, candidates were asked to express their views from a series of pre-determined questions gleaned from voters. Topics included not only on climate change, but also affordability of housing and cost of living on the Peninsula, needs of the young and the elderly, the possibility of federal support for infrastructure (including continuing repairs to White Rock’s pier), and even Surrey’s choice to establish a city police force in place of the RCMP.
It was a notably civil exchange of views without overt sniping, and with general agreement that most of the topics raised were genuine issues of concern.
Findlay even received a laugh when – volunteering her microphone to replace the malfunctioning one of another candidate – she said, “see, we can all co-operate.”
Crozier, also gained a laugh by quipping “another stolen NDP program,” as Hogg discussed Liberal investment in affordable housing and, later on, applause when – in an apparent shot at the ‘People’s Party’ name – he stated “we are the worker’s party.”
The NDP candidate started the evening making political hay out of the plastic water bottles provided for candidates by organizers.
“This is indicative of some of the changes we have to start making,” he said.
“I don’t believe any of the parties here have all the answers,” Hogg said after stating that voters and politicians are facing a multitude of conflicting and challenging situations.
“We all do the best we can whatever the conditions are.”
But while taking opportunity to note the actions of the Liberals in response to issues raised – such as a recent CMHC funding for an affordable housing development in South Surrey – he also reminded the audience that he grew up in the community. “The values I grew up with, I think, are consistent with the values of the Liberal Party,” he said.
Findlay, on the other hand, continued to paint the Conservatives as the party with practical solutions to Canadian problems, as opposed to what she described as “the federal Liberals’ excessive spending.”
“We need to be living within our means, not going into deficits and mortgaging our children and grandchildren’s future – that’s not right,” she said.
Hobby spoke of the need for a “sustainable economy and an honest, ethical and caring leadership,” and suggested that a shift away from a fossil fuel-based economy and the development of new technologies would result in the creation of “hundreds and hundreds of jobs,” as well as purposeful activities for young people including a ‘community environmental services corps.’
Poulin received positive feedback from the crowd when he spoke of “responsibility, fairness and respect for all Canadians” being tenets of the People’s Party – which he described as the “fastest growing party in Canadian history.”
But the reaction was distinctly lukewarm reception when, in response to a question to what action should be taken on climate change, he suggested people should not be persuaded by “websites” and “third party opinions” but “go to science” instead.
Climate change also provided one of the greatest differences between the Conservative and other party positions, with Findlay asserting that the Conservative plan emphasizes the development of encouraging business solutions using new technology rather than carbon pricing – which, she claimed, does not work.
“Carbon pricing does work,” Hogg insisted. “In Australia, they had carbon pricing and then took it off and things changed drastically.”
Both Crozier and Hobby were adamant that the country needs to move away from fossil fuels and into sustainable resources.