Self-Advocates of Semiahmoo member Krista Milne talks about what affordable housing means to her, during an ‘all-candidates mixer’ hosted by the group at Semiahmoo House Thursday evening. (Tracy Holmes photo)

Candidate ‘mixer’ draws 100-plus to South Surrey’s Semiahmoo House

Accessibility, affordability and housing top of mind for self-advocates

Accessibility and inclusiveness, climate change, debt reduction and employment were among issues candidates for the federal South Surrey-White Rock seat were asked to share their position on Thursday, during a ‘mixer’ at Semiahmoo House Society.

MCed by Alexander Magnussen, the mixer drew well over 100 potential voters to the 24 Avenue centre to hear candidates’ takes on topics identified by members of the Self-Advocates of Semiahmoo (SAS).

as significant.

A one-minute time limit for answers led to some chuckles as candidates strived to pack as much as they could into each of their time slots – and a not-so-subtle criticism of one party sparked a reminder by Magnussen for the candidates to “highlight your own parties” –

It was the final component of the evening program that received the most enthusiastic response from the crowd: hearing directly from four SAS members.

Michaela Robinson, noting the “great feeling” she gets from working at White Spot, encouraged the candidates to “please think about how you can bring good employers to our area.”

“It’s great to be a part of a team that’s inclusive to all people,” Robinson said. “I even have my own personal stool (at White Spot) so I am able to be seen by customers.

“And I think it would be great if many others have the same opportunity.”

Alexa Lehwald spoke about transportation, and the independence she enjoys when taking the bus to go out with friends. She pointed to the importance of feeling safe when taking transit, and asked candidates to keep that in mind when making any changes to it. As well, make routes to downtown easier, she said.

“Transportation is important for the freedom of all people and should always be affordable.”

Krista Milne said her independence has grown since she began living on her own in one of the Chorus apartments, where she cooks for herself and is just steps from shopping and entertainment.

Independent living “was a big huge dream of mine,” Milne said.

“I feel safe. Affordable housing is important to my life and I believe that everyone should have the same opportunity to live an independent life.”

Madison Van Oene, who is also on the Semiahmoo House Society board said she is passionate about inclusion and accessibility. Reliant on a wheelchair, she said without access to the community, “I cannot go out to enjoy the pleasure of life.”

“Being able to get around in my community means that I am seeing people that I know and doing things with my friends and family,” she said.

“I want all Canadians to enjoy the fun I get to have and the good life that I live.”

All five federal candidates were on hand to weigh in on those topics and more.

Regarding increasing employment, Gordie Hogg said a Liberal government would reduce the small-business tax to nine per cent, and eliminate the merchant credit-card swipe-fee; Pixie Hobby said her Green Party will create a venture capital fund for new startups and eliminate the need for more than one tax filing; Conservative Kerry-Lynne Findlay said tax increases on small-business investments would be repealed; Stephen Crozier said the NDP would also review merchant fees for credit-card use, work to get unions and workers on-side and invest in training; and Joel Poulin, the People’s Party of Canada candidate, said the PPC would simplify and lower taxes for businesses – “make it fair for everybody.”

On transportation, Hobby said the Greens are planning a high-speed system that runs on renewable energy; Hogg said Canadian law means all federal services “must have accessible and inclusive access for all Canadians”; Poulin said the PPC would bring home some of the millions that are being spent on infrastructure outside of Canada, “to deal with our issues here” first; Crozier said the NDP will work with transit commissions and municipalities to make transit free; and Findlay said she would champion the SkyTrain extension to the Langley Events Centre, “and then from that transportation spine, down into South Surrey.”

Regarding accessibility, Hogg pledged continued consultation with those who know the issues firsthand; Poulin said it’s “important… that all Canadians are heard”; Crozier said barriers, including mental barriers, need to be moved, and that the NDP would review the income-security program; Findlay said it’s important the Accessible Canada Act “doesn’t get bogged down in red tape”; and Hobby said the Greens are committing to direct funding for quality housing for people with disabilities, seniors and low income, and plan to allocate one per cent of the GST to municipalities for infrastructure projects.

Candidates answered a total of nine questions posed by SAS. The group was formed by Semiahmoo House Society members to support their peers with developmental disabilities, raise awareness and promote inclusion.



tholmes@peacearchnews.com

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