The carbon tax, a balanced budget, public transit, job creation and health care were among the issues discussed during the Abbotsford-Mission all-candidates meeting on Tuesday evening.
The event, held at Christian Life Church on Straiton Road, featured all seven of the riding’s candidates: Liberal contender Simon Gibson, NDP candidate Preet Rai, Conservative Don Stahl, Aird Flavelle of the Green Party, Excalibur Party candidate Marcus Halliday, and independents Wendy Bales and Roman Bojczuk.
The meeting was hosted by the Abbotsford Chamber of Commerce, the Fraser Valley Real Estate Board and the Fraser Valley Indo-Canadian Business Association.
The carbon tax was the focus of several prepared and audience questions.
The candidates were divided on whether the tax – which applies to the purchase or use of fuels – is beneficial in reducing B.C.’s carbon footprint.
Halliday said although it was initially a good idea, it has not been implemented as intended.
“It became another tax that increases the cost of living,” he said.
Stahl said the tax has done nothing to help the environment. He said he would get rid of it, and focus more on making B.C. an affordable place for families.
Flavelle said he is in favour of the tax because it is the “fastest and most efficient” way to reduce carbon emissions.
“We need to do something quickly,” he said.
Rai said the NDP will have to keep the carbon tax because of the “financial mess” the Liberals left the province in. He said the party will use the funds to support environmental and climate change initiatives.
Gibson argued that the tax has always been “revenue neutral.”
Another issue that was the focus of several questions was balancing the budget.
Rai said the NPD has a plan in place to have a balanced budget within three years, followed by debt reduction.
Bojczuk said, if elected, his constituents will guide him on what needs to be done. He said he would be only one voice among 85 in the legislature.
“I would not be able to seriously affect policy. I’m not here to make promises I can’t keep.”
Gibson said people need to remember that a balanced budget comes with sacrifices.
“When you balance the budget, you can’t do everything you’d like now … It’s really about setting priorities, and health care and education are the number one priorities.”
Bales, who failed to win the riding nomination for the NDP, was asked whether she was running as an independent on a “revenge platform.”
“I’m here because I’m worried about a lot of different issues, and I wanted to address them,” she said.
Among the concerns she touched on during the meeting were homelessness and poverty, protecting the Agricultural Land Reserve, and the use of renewable energies.
Halliday, who is 18, was asked whether his age should be a factor in determining his suitability as a politician. He said his maturity was evidenced by the fact that he argued the issues aptly with the other candidates, and every politician has to start somewhere.
“You know what? We need a fresh voice,” he said.
This was the last of the all-candidates meetings in the area.