(Video) Richmond News all-candidates debate: Richmond-Queensborough

Richmond-Queensborough candidates took to the virtual stage Thursday morning to debate key issues in Richmond ahead of the Oct. 24 provincial election.

The riding was a hotly-contested seat in the 2017 election. In the end, the winner and runner up were separated by just 134 votes.

This year will be a rematch between the two leading candidates of 2017, incumbent Jas Johal (BC Liberals) and Aman Singh (BC NDP). But they don’t have the floor to themselves. Earl Einarson (BC Greens) and Kay Hale (BC Conservatives) are also in the running.

Throughout the debate hosted by the Richmond News, the four candidates answered questions about the Richmond Hospital; the George Massey Crossing; restarting the economy; housing; and the arts.

The Liberals plan for a 10-lane bridge came under fire in the debate, with Singh and Hale warning a Liberal government would impose tolls on the new Massey Crossing.

“They want to completely change the course on the Massey crossing, further risking delays, and they want to charge us for it by tolling it,” said Singh.

Hale said that it would cost the average citizen $2,000 a year to pay for the toll. 

Johal, however, said repeatedly there would be “no tolls, period, full-stop.” He also said the bridge could be completed in less time than the NDP’s tunnel option, as it had already gone through consultation and environmental assessment. 

Einarson said the new crossing needs to be “ecologically sound and sustainable.”

“That’s what we really need. We have to be aware that there is an estuary there, that there is huge repercussions to ALR land,” he said.

The Green candidate also criticized the former Liberal government for not building Richmond Hospital.

“I heard Jas Johal (saying) that they were busy for the last 16 years building hospitals,” he said. “I heard that. I don’t see anything in Richmond.”

Under the Liberals, the hospital was overburdened and neglected, said Singh.

“Richmond Hospital had cracks in the building. They were putting people in the basement,” he said. Meanwhile, the NDP’s planned acute care tower is “full steam ahead.”

But Johal said the NDP had spent “zero dollars” on the tower.

“They’re talking about it, (but) no money has been set aside yet for the tower.”

Johal also pointed the Liberals built a number of  hospitals built while in power, in addition to infrastructure such as the Port Mann Bridge and Richmond Oval.

Hale was the only candidate to mention birth tourism, saying that the province needs to work with the federal government to stop the practise. 

“I’ve seen my daughters, when they were having babies…they were bounced from the Richmond General Hospital to Lionsgate Hospital to the Royal Columbian. Why? Because the Richmond Hospital, 90 per cent of it is filled up with passport babies,” she said.

© New West Record