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Mission candidates talk jobs, taxes and small business

Three no-shows at public debate hosted by chamber of commerce
Abbotsford-Mission riding candidate Jennifer Holmes (Green) speaks to the crowd as Liberal Simon Gibson listens. Kevin Mills Photo

Only two candidates in the Abbotsford-Mission riding attended a public debate on Tuesday night at the Clarke Theatre in Mission.

Liberal Simon Gibson and Green Party candidate Jennifer Holmes were present for the all-candidates meeting, hosted by the Mission Regional Chamber of Commerce.

Missing from the event were NDP candidate Andrew Christie and the Christian Heritage Party’s Dan Cameron.

Also on stage were four of the five candidates in the Maple Ridge-Mission riding.

Marc Dalton (Liberal), Peter Tam (Green), Trevor Hamilton (Conservative) and Bob D’Eith (NDP) were all in attendance, while Libertarian candidate Jeff Monds did not attend.

Throughout the evening, candidates were asked to comment on questions submitted by the chamber and the audience. For the most part, the discussions were cordial but did get heated from time to time, especially on the subject of jobs and skilled labour.

D’Eith told the crowd that post-secondary training is critical and “in order to get good jobs, we need apprentice training.”

Tam said they are looking for different ways of investing and working with schools to develop skills.

Dalton said the Liberals have opened seven new universities and colleges throughout the province. He also said jobs have been created by many major projects, like the Port Mann Bridge and Site C, which has 2,400 jobs at that site. He said the NDP and Greens were opposed to those projects.

D’Eith fired back, saying since the Liberals were in power, 30,000 jobs have been lost.

“Site C? All we said is it should have gone to the utilities commission. Christy Clark just rammed that through. We are going to create 96,000 jobs building our infrastructure, building our roads, building our hospitals – that’s our promise to you,” said D’Eith.

Gibson countered those comments, telling the crowd to remember when the NDP was in power.

“We lost investment. We had the highest unemployment rate in Canada, six credit downgrades … thousands of people left the province. That’s the legacy of the NDP. I don’t think we want that back again,” said Gibson.

Tam said the jobs created by Site C are all low-paying, part-time jobs. He asked what happens after that?

Asked about the property transfer tax and home affordability, Gibson said nobody likes the tax, but it does bring in significant revenue.

“If we decide to abandon it or change the threshold, government has to find the funds somewhere else.”

He added that the government is open to looking at the threshold but also has to look at the implications to the overall budget.

Holmes told the crowd that her party feels the real estate bubble will burst one day and that home ownership grants don’t need to go to the very wealthy.

“It’s an area we need to work on,” she said.

Help for small business was another popular topic of the night.

D’Eith called small businesses the “backbone of the B.C. economy.”

“We are going to reduce the small business tax rate from 2.5 per cent to two per cent to stimulate small business,” said D’Eith.

Hamilton said the Conservative Party would also reduce the tax to two per cent and would avoid raising the minimum wage.

He said raising the minimum wage “would have a hugely negative impact on small businesses and not allow them to compete.”

Tam, a former entrepreneur, said the Greens recognize the challenges small businesses have. He said the Greens would also lower the taxes but also “help small business to link up with other businesses in the industry and link up with academics, with schools to create programs for apprenticeships.”

Dalton said more than one million people either own a small business or are employed by a small business, making them integral to the economy.

“We are dropping the provincial sales tax on energy so that’s going down by half… that will be a direct savings. And finally, the carbon tax, we are committed not to raising the carbon tax. Both the NDP and Greens have committed to double the carbon tax, which will be a major hit.”

Asked their position on re-routing the provincial highway around downtown Mission, the candidates’ answers were varied.

D’Eith said he would work with the community to ensure that all issues that the community needs are dealt with, and he will be the MLA who fights for transportation.

Hamilton said he’s all for it.

Tam said safety is the highest concern, and he wants to get the traffic flowing through downtown Mission freely, without having to impede on the businesses, while Dalton said downtown traffic is a major municipal election issue and he would work together with the community and the council.

Gibson noted that the local council is looking at putting in a significant amount of money redeveloping the downtown core and will be looking at the traffic situation. That will require municipal and provincial input.

Holmes told the audience she travels that road every day.

“I am all for a route that will take the large transportation trucks, logging trucks, gravel trucks out of the downtown.”

Maple Ridge-Mission riding candidate Bob D’Eith speaks to the crowd as fellow candidates wait for their turn to talk. / Kevin Mills Photo

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