Three of the four candidates running in the newly-created Cloverdale-Langley City riding made their case to an audience of 120 people, most of them seniors, at the Langley Seniors Resource Centre on Wednesday afternoon.
Conservative Dean Drysdale, New Democrat Rebecca Smith and Liberal John Aldag spent two hours taking questions.
Green candidate Scott Anderson was a no-show.
Most of the questions centered on national issues of concern to seniors, including health care, housing and pensions, with the issue of veterans generating the most heat.
The New Democrats’ Smith and the Liberals’ Aldag attacked the Conservative record on veterans, with Smith accusing the Harper government of “showing no respect” by cutting services and benefits and Aldag saying “as a Canadian, I was frankly embarrassed and ashamed” that the Conservatives were fighting veterans in court over their benefits.
Both said the government should do more to help returning soldiers cope with the psychological aftermath of combat.
That drew an energetic counter-attack by the Conservatives’ Drysdale, who said he has 35 years in the military and “many of the people wrestling with these issues are friends of mine.”
Drysdale lashed out at the opposition parties as “hypocritical” for complaining about how the government treats soldiers when they have treated the armed forces with “neglect and scorn.”
He criticized the Liberals for failing to properly equip the armed forced when they were in government and reserved his strongest language for the New Democrats.
“The NDP has never found anything in their lives worth fighting for,” Drysdale said.
“We have fought for Canadians over and over and over again,” Smith responded.
Local public transit received attention, with all three candidates promising improvements.
Drysdale noted the Conservatives recently announced funding for a Surrey-to-Langley light rapid transit line.
“This is the first government in a very long time that has given B.C. its fair share,” Drysdale said.
Smith said an NDP government would address the needs of South-of-the-Fraser communities, telling the audience “we have been left lying out in the cold. We’re left with tolls and other things.”
Aldag said the Liberal plan to run deficits will mean more money for infrastructure projects like transit.
Editor’s note: a representative from Scott Anderson’s campaign has contacted Black Press to say the Green Party candidate has been ill and was therefore unable to attend Wednesday’s two all-candidates meetings for the Cloverdale-Langley City riding.