by Ray Hudson
Surrey: The media event kicked off with Sukh Dhaliwal, as the senior politician and moderator, presenting a reiteration of Justin Trudeau’s announcement of the $125 Billion infrastructure commitment. The candidates introduced themselves, talking about their fields of expertise and experience along with what they could offer the voters in their ridings. This was followed by questions from the media which included:
– Immigration policy, particularly around family reunification, and a challenge to Harjit Sajjan, asking for a commitment that he would resign if changes in that area were not achieved.
– Selection of candidates as being unfair and not transparent or democratic where some who sought nomination but were not approved by the party..
– Why did Trudeau rule out a coalition with NDP? Ken Hardie said the NDP in many ways are closer to the Conservatives than the Liberals, and a formal coalition would not work. He said they would not rule out working with members with common interests and common values, but not a coalition.
– Can Liberals break-through in Surrey and lower mainland where they haven’t before. Hardie replied that in his telephone calling, he’s finding about 60% of the people were undecided at this point, and are shopping for a “program” that’s going to work for them.
– Coast Guard and Military and what Liberals will do to bolster the presence of both services on the west coast. Sajjan cited concerns about not being able to respond to natural or other disasters, citing our location on a major earthquake fault zone. Trudeau has also promised to restore the Kitsilano base and with the infrastructure promise, will restore more capability including the naval base at Esquimalt. Randeep Sarai added that the Liberals are the only party with a leader that has roots here, citing Trudeau’s experiences growing up here, teaching school and traveling around BC. Carla Qualtrough also said that the western port does not represent the local and regional concerns with six of the nine board appointments being federal.
– Recession and how a Liberal government would deal with it. Hardie replied that the economy needs careful handling by a government that will do something effective with it, specifically that dealing with the huge infrastructure deficit will aid the economy. He said interest rates are very low, money is cheap, and there are many who will do the work so “this is the time” as opposed to austerity.
– Abolition of the Senate. No. It can’t be done. Work instead to fix it.
– Finding Jobs for ethnic people a bigger problem than issues around immigration. Dhaliwal replied that he is excited about: $125 billion in new investments in infrastructure improvements will go to projects in every part of Surrey and the other ridings creating jobs, then tax cuts to middle class families, tax will drop from 22% to 20.5%, there will be a tax credit of $2500 to families earning $90,000 or less, teachers will get tax credits for supplies they buy. Those are the issues that will take centre stage.
– Sajjan spoke about crime but said the solutions aren’t just to be tough on crime. We have to inspire the young generation to choose to make a positive contribution to better their community rather than seek the excitement from criminal activities. He went on to speak about the changes they’d make to assist veterans and particularly those who were wounded physically or emotionally.
– John Aldag said financial stability and security is the greatest issue he’s hearing about going door to door.
– Joy Davies was challenged to explain her claim that the ‘tough on crime’ program was an attack on the poor. Her response seemed to leave some degree of confusion about what she actually intended to say.
These are early days in what will be a very lengthy campaign, so many of the policies will no doubt be tried and revised in the next few weeks. It does appear that Surrey will be an interesting place for political watchers in the days to come.