Three of the six candidates running in Delta in the upcoming federal election took part in a debate Tuesday hosted by the Delta Chamber of Commerce.
Held at the Reach Child Development Centre in Ladner, the event included Liberal candidate Carla Qualtrough, Conservative candidate Garry Shearer and Green Party candidate Jeremy Smith.
The Chamber forum, sponsored by the Fraser Valley Real Estate Board, was just for candidates who are in parties that are represented in the House of Commons by an elected Member of Parliament or received at least four per cent of votes in the last federal election.
Delta New Democrat candidate Monika Dean qualified but did not participate.
She told the Optimist that due to the rise of COVID-19 cases, her party is taking precautions for candidates including not attending events that have in-person audiences, but they wanted to participate virtually.
The debate focused primarily on business issues, having the candidates answer a variety of question including whether they support balanced budgets and, if so, how would their parties achieve them.
Smith answered there’s no simple fix when it comes to the budget and what needs to be avoided are knee-jerk reactions.
“This is one of the things I told myself, is that I would never make a promise I definitely couldn’t say I couldn’t commit to. I think we have to review the books before we could say what changes would be able to be made in order to balance the budget. I think this is very complicated and will require everybody to work together to find a common solution,” Smith said.
Shearer said his party “absolutely believes in balanced budgets” and that his party is the only one with a plan, adding their recovery plan shows how they can reduce the debt over five years.
Qualtrough noted that they were in a strong fiscal position heading into the pandemic and “we knew we had the fiscal bandwidth to be there for Canadians.”
She said they were able to take strong and decisive actions to make sure workers and businesses got the support they needed in order to come back stronger on the other side of the pandemic.
The Liberal Party platform targets growth and the best way to pay down the debt down is through growth, she explained.
Among the other questions was where the candidates stand on how to improve housing affordability, so that businesses are able to attract workers, including whether they would provide tax incentives such as removing the GST for rental housing projects.
Noting suites in converted garages and attics need to be encouraged and promoted, and red tape cut, Smith said certain percentages of city streets need to be designated for higher density types, such as for row houses only.
Shearer, saying his government is committed to having over a million more homes built, said the federal government needs to work with all levels of government, including cutting red tape.
He also said foreign investment including money laundering needs to be curtailed so that Canadians aren’t blocked out from the market.
Qualtrough noted her government intends to tackle a wide spectrum of housing needs. Multi-generational tax credits for a house is just part of a multi-billion dollar Liberal plan.
The candidates were also asked what assurance their parties can give that funding would be available for the George Massey Tunnel replacement project.
Qualtrough said her government is very keen to get the project going and leader Justin Trudeau, whom she spoke with this week about the project, is assuring the money will be available.
Smith said people have waited long enough, and that Trudeau should be handing over a cheque immediately, while Shearer said his government is committed to funding the project.
Asked for their take how agriculture can be maintained as a sustainable industry, Shearer noted Delta’s rich farmlands are needed for food security but proper infrastructure, such as irrigation water for Westham Island, is still needed.
Qualtrough said her government will look at agriculture-specific strategies to address issues such as the farm labour shortage, while there’s also opportunities for an updated business risk management agricultural program.
Smith said youth need to be encouraged to get into farming, adding new supports are also required to address the labour issue.
Asked for their position on the proposed Terminal 2 expansion at Roberts Bank, Smith said the government must show leadership by listening to the science.
Shearer said the port is an important infrastructure to the Canadian economy but the experts should be heard on how to expand.
Qualtrough also said the port is needed to ensure Canadian global competitiveness, but she’s concerned about the findings from a review panel about potential environmental impacts, and is also concerned those impacts can’t be mitigated.
One of the final questions was what could be done to open the border for Canadians who own property in Point Roberts.
Shearer said that an agreement could have surely be made to accommodate the situation.
Noting her government has been working on the border issue and she along with Delta South MLA Ian Paton even met with state representatives, Qualtrough said the reality facing Canadians wanting to cross is that the U.S. is in control of its borders.
Smith said Point Roberts, unfortunately, has been a low priority for the states but hopefully lessons can be learned.
The debate is available for viewing on the Chamber's YouTube page here.
Eastlink TV will also re-broadcast the debate at the following times:
Wed., Sept. 15 at 8 p.m.
Thu., Sept. 16 at 9 a.m.
Fri., Sept. 17 at 7 p.m.
Sun., Sept. 19 at 4 p.m.