New Westminster candidates address election forum
The six candidates hoping to be New Westminster's next MLA came to the Inn at the Quay on Wednesday night to be put under the microscope by voters at the New Westminster Chamber of Commerce's all-candidates forum.
The event managed to draw a crowd of about 100, who came despite the twin draws of a warm, sunny evening and the Canucks' first game in the Stanley Cup series.
The leading candidate, at least according to the provincial polls along with the city's history of electing New Democrats, Judy Darcy was confident and forceful, perhaps unsurprising given her previous experience as a union leader.
Youthful, but far from inexperienced, challenger Hector Bremner was smooth in his defence of his BC Liberal party's record in government the last 12 years, highlighting his 14 years in the business world.
"Business is more than a bottom line. It puts food on our table. It's what pays for our services," Bremner said.
Terry Teather of the BC Greens emphasized how his party is coming of age, even though it's 30 years old, with policies developed on many topics. "It's no longer a one-issue party," he insisted.
Conservative Paul Forseth played the native son card, having grown up in New Westminster and represented the city as an Member of Parliament in Ottawa for 12 years.
Independent James Crosty, a resident of the Quay, presented himself as the friendly neighbour willing to lend a hand, unburdened by having to toe the party line and instead bringing disparate stakeholders together to come to a compromise. "A vote for me is a vote for yourself," said Crosty. "I think I've proven my voice is fairly loud. I get people's attention."
Longshot B.C. Libertarian party candidate Lewis Dahlby frequently spoke quietly, but still made some bold statements. "Governments routinely trample on the rights of individuals," he said. "Democracy is not what it's cracked up to be, it's a flawed concept." He then pointed out it was a democracy in Germany that let Hitler loose on the world and another in the United States that allowed slavery for centuries. He also said climate change is a bit ridiculous and "it's an asinine term to use. We've always had climate change … It's way overrated. Young people will realize what a hoax this was."
Transportation has become a top issue in New Westminster the last few years, with the city fighting with regional authorities and the provincial government over the United Boulevard Extension, the Pattullo Bridge and the North and South Fraser perimeter roads.
"We're asked to take a lot. We need a proper regional strategy," said Bremner. "We have seen lots of studies. We haven't seen a plan to mitigate the traffic ... This is a conversation so crucial to this city and to this province in the next four years."
Forseth said transportation is the lifeblood of the economy and although it's a struggle to find a balance between people and the movement of goods, investment in transportation has to be made.
Teather, on the other hand, said affordable, efficient public transportation paid for by a carbon tax has to be implemented. He called for more bike and pedestrian lanes, including proposing the Pattullo Bridge have only two lanes for traffic and two dedicated for bicycles and pedestrians.
Darcy said the NDP would also expand the carbon tax to invest in public transit and asserted TransLink is unaccountable and "likes to run roughshod over New Westminster."
But Dahlby, who owns a trucking business, praised the province for building a new Port Mann Bridge, the Golden Ears Bridge, South Fraser Perimeter Road and expanding Highway 1.
Concerns about the emergency department at Royal Columbian Hospital from a questioner got a sympathetic response from Darcy, who recently went there with her husband for treatment.
"The time to wait was simply unacceptable. We need to get all the stakeholders together to address the problem," said Darcy, who noted it's not just providing more doctors and nurses but also making sure there are enough beds for the patients and home support for follow-up care to ease the pressure at the ER.
"There are a lot of pieces to the puzzle," she said.
Bremner, however, had the opposite experience in two trips to emergency recently, praising the service his family received, although he plans to push for redevelopment of RCH. "That hospital does a lot more than it's been designed to do," he admitted.
Forseth said health care is a matter of spending priorities.
"It's mainly a funding pressure," he said. "We've got to grow the economy. It's the only way we're going to get the money to pay for the health care we need."
Other topics included the environment, pipelines, paying down the debt and small business training and trades training for women.