Surrey South BC Liberal candidate Elenore Sturko did not hesitate to go on the attack against the BC NDP – and an absent Pauline Greaves – at an all-candidates forum Tuesday (Sept. 6), sponsored by the South Surrey White Rock Chamber of Commerce and the Cloverdale District Chamber of Commerce.
The forum for the byelection, to fill the seat of Surrey South MLA, was held at Peace Portal Alliance Church and introduced by Ritu Khanna, executive director of the South Surrey and White Rock chamber and Scott Wheately, executive director of the Cloverdale chamber.
Sturko took shots at the party in power almost right from her opening remarks.
“I’m tired of failed promises by the NDP – we have one in five individuals here in B.C. that cannot access primary health care, we have people dying waiting for ambulances, we have unaffordable housing, this province has become unsustainable for our future generations,” she said.
She was also quick to note the absence of Greaves from the panel of candidates (Greaves had sent regrets to the organizers, saying she was missing the meeting due to other campaigning activities).
“Tonight we have an NDP candidate that cannot even come here and answer questions about the things that they’re doing to this province… is Pauline Greaves the kind of person that you believe can be a voice for you in Victoria, when she can’t even be here and be a voice in this room for members of the community? – I don’t think so,” Sturko said, to applause.
But candidates Simran Sarai (BC Green Party) and Harman Bhanghu (BC Conservative Party) suggested in their answers to various questions posed by moderator Frank Bucholtz that long-standing rivalries between the BC Liberals and the BC NDP are also not serving the needs of the people of B.C. and that greater problem-solving cooperation between the parties is needed.
On the topic of the $10 per day child care program that is being rolled out in B.C., for example, and how candidates will ensure that voices of existing child care providers – often women entrepreneurs – will be heard, both Sarai and Bhanghu took issue with the status quo of politicking rather than problem solving.
As father of a four-year-old and a two-year-old, Bhangu said “a $1o promise, a one-size-fits-all – to me it’s just a myth.”
He said he was skeptical that child care costs, that amount to $800 per month for just one of his children, can be reduced in a blanket fashion.
“We need to work with he private sector…create partnerships, talk to the municipalities,” he added.
“We need to sit down at the table with all sides, NDP, Liberal, Conservative, it doesn’t matter. This is a future generation at stake. We all need to sit together and come up with a real solution, not just floating these ideas of $10 child care, because when you talk to parents that is very disingenuous.”
Sarai said that we have learned that our society does not function when “parents are home, worried about their kids, or unable to afford child care,” she said, adding that affordability and access must continue when children reach school age.
“I think one thing that our previous governments, both Liberal and NDP, have done a poor job of, is consulting with community members,” she said. We saw this with the teachers’ strikes. I was in high school when the first one happened – there were 2,000 kids in our high school abandoned because teachers had to walk out, because they weren’t being paid fairly and weren’t being listened to by the government in power.”
On the issue of the current crisis in health care – including attrition and burn-out among medical staff, lack of family doctors and long hospital wait times – Libertarian Jason Bax said that he had run for MLA in Surrey-White Rock in 2020 because of his concerns about the NDP’s roll-out of COVID-19 measures.
“I was the guy who stood up in 2020 and said, ‘Whoa, hold on. Pump the brakes’,” he said.
“When you take unprecedented measures, it’s going to lead to unprecedented harm. The NDP declared a state of emergency, Premier Horgan said it’s a state of emergency, and then he also added ‘but don’t worry, we secured the supply line.’
“What has happened to our supply chain? We can’t get things. Big shock – I knew that was a problem then. My neighbour desperately needed a chemical reagent in order to have a cancer screening – he is not going to get that test, because the doctors said ‘we can’t get it.’
“(It’s) because the government has its hand on the supply chain again,” he said. “Perhaps if the government were to get out of the way, we could get back to living a normal life.”
The entire forum can be viewed online at www.sswrchamber.ca/2022-byelection