The federal election is a little more than sixth months away, but Brad Vis, the Conservative candidate in the riding of Mission-Matsqui-Fraser Canyon, has already begun a series of town hall meetings to gauge the concerns of local residents and allow them to ask him questions directly.
Vis, was in Mission Thursday night to address a crowd of more than 50 people at the leisure centre.
After briefly commenting on the recent federal budget, Vis said his “big, general concern” is the deficit.
“We’ve seen an exorbitant amount of new spending, $41.3 billion just alone in this budget. A 20 per cent overall increase in what the government is spending money on, but I cannot for the life of me see how that’s going to impact the average person.”
In his opinion the government is increasing the size of the bureaucracy in Ottawa and increasing program spending to narrow interest groups, but he said it is not having an overall effect on the affordability issues that “we’re facing here in the Lower Mainland, especially in Mission-Matsqui- Fraser Canyon.”
He also raised concerns about Canada’s infrastructure situation, noting that the federal Liberals created a program to provide money for infrastructure, but it hasn’t panned out.
“Their thinking was that if we increase the federal cut of the pie, that municipalities and provincial governments were going to step up and provide the funding. What’s actually happened is the municipalities and provincial governments have decreased their commitments because the federal government said they were going to increase it. What we’ve been left with is a bit of a log jam and our projects are not being built.”
He said a Conservative government would keep Ottawa spending in check, move towards a balanced budget over time and have a better use of infrastructure programs.
As for the local riding, Vis said it’s size, 22,000 square kilometes, makes it a challenge.
“The only way, in my opinion that we can apply effective representation through an area like Mission-Matsqui-Fraser Canyon… is if we structure things appropriately, work very closely with all the mayors and councils to get their ideas and I’m going to have to hold myself accountable with all of this information, to keep pushing the major concerns that we’re facing.”
Some concerns he listed were not solely Mission issues. He pointed to major ditching and dredging issues, soil erosion through the Fraser River, people living in poverty in Indigenous communities and communities struggling with basic services like hospitals and busing.
He also pointed to a “huge rate of gang crime” in the riding – largely in Abbotsford – that is growing and federal support is needed.
“I want to address environmental, economical and social issues that we’re facing.”
Finally he said he does not support changing the riding’s name from Mission-Matsqui-Fraser Canyon to Abbotsford-Mission-Fraser Canyon as proposed by current MP Jati Sidhu.
“There was no public consultation on this and it upset a lot of people. Me for example, I was born in Matsqui B.C., my dad was born in Matsqui B.C. and I lived in Matsqui before it amalgamated with Abbotsford. There is also First Nation by the name of Matsqui who lives within our riding.”
He plans to write a letter to the senate, where the bill is tabled, to suggest the first acquire some public input and ask the public what the name means to them and its historical significance.