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ELEX: Port Coquitlam candidates
BC Liberals: Barbara Lu
Port Coquitlam MLA Mike Farnworth has been in politics longer than BC Liberal challenger Barbara Lu has been alive but that doesn't bother the upbeat 24-year-old.
On the doorstep, Lu, an employee of the BC Liberal Party, said she is hearing "a lot of 'Yes, I'll vote for you! I don't want the NDP.'"
Lu, who is probably in the province's biggest David-and-Goliath battle — given her and Farnworth's differences in experience and age (she is the BC Liberals' youngest candidate), said she is offering a fresh face with new ideas to PoCo constituents.
Her rival's policies "are going for spending that's out of control and we're all about controlling spending," she said.
Still, the Grits under Christy Clark, a former Port Moody MLA, haven't polled well, she is reminded. On that point, Lu is also unfazed. "I think the only poll that matters is on May 14. That's the one we care about."
Lu also notes Farnworth was beaten in 2001 by a candidate of the same age: Karn Manhas (although that was part of a wipeout that saw only two NDP MLAs elected).
A graduate of Archbishop Carney regional secondary school, Lu said she has always wanted to serve and give back to her community. She decided to run now, she said, because she felt she couldn't wait another four years and see the NDP return to power.
Asked why it took her until April 11 to announce her candidacy, the SFU political science grad responded, "It was a tough decision for me because I was talking to family and asking, 'Am I ready?' I am young. Should I wait the four years? At the end of the day, I decided it was important for me to run."
As for riding issues, Lu said, as MLA, she wouldn't lobby for an immediate extension of the Evergreen Line to PoCo; rather, she would press TransLink for more buses to be made available to the Coquitlam rapid-transit alignment.
Transportation is key to her platform, she stressed. Lu remembers the amount of time it took for her to get to SFU from the Tri-Cities. But TransLink, the regional transportation body, "is doing their best," Lu said, "and any organization has something that they can improve on and I think they are looking to do that. They are constantly revising and looking where their efficiencies are in costs."
Lu said she didn't have enough information to comment on future gaming allocation for non-host casino cities, or on a regional police force versus the RCMP; but on the issue of School District 43's $12-million deficit, Lu said she would like to work with the board of education.
"As far as the provincial government, we have actually — contrary to popular belief — not cut funding to schools, we've increased it," she said.
NDP: Mike Farnworth
For this provincial election, Mike Farnworth sees the tide turning — just as it did in 2001.
Then, the moderate NDP MLA, who had already served in the legislature for a decade after three terms as a Port Coquitlam city councillor, was booted out in a province-wide party wipeout.
At the time, the NDP's campaign slogan was "Today's New Democrats"; for this race, the governing party is branding itself "Today's BC Liberals."
"It's slightly ironic," Farnworth said, adding, "I think there's a strong sense that people feel it's time for a change. We have a very good shot at winning government in this election... The current government has lost touch. It's out of ideas. It needs a spell in opposition."
Farnworth has always been one of the NDP’s most articulate MLAs. Along with Harry Lali and Sue Hammell, he’s the most senior caucus member — and was the first of the three to enter cabinet, having held four portfolios under various premiers, including Glen Clark.
As a critic, Farnworth has also been vocal on such topics as public safety, economic development and, lately, health services.
But this past term has been especially busy for Farnworth, having challenged Adrian Dix in 2011 for the party’s top job. Had he won by 3.7% in the third and final ballot, we might be talking about Farnworth as possibly the next premier.
Still, with the leadership contest now a distant memory, Farnworth said his agenda has been full with public policy and constituents’ concerns.
Recently, on the riding front, he successfully lobbied for better signalization onto the Coast Meridian Overpass and for upgrading Pitt River middle school. He was also on the city of PoCo’s side when it came time for council to sign on to a new 20-year RCMP contract last summer, he said.
And Farnworth said he has been sympathetic with PoCo council as it lobbies for a share of casino funds for non-host cities (Coquitlam receives 10% of net gaming revenues from Boulevard Casino). Farnworth, a former gaming minister, said the government needs to address the issue with the Union of BC Municipalities.
As for School District 43's funding woes, Farnworth said the Tri-Cities is not alone when it comes to a bad fiscal management. Asked if a forensic audit is in order, the MLA said, "What I want to know is what are the cause of the problems. Why have other districts gotten the same problems, too? The province needs to be working with school districts to identify what the problems are and fix them. It's not a case of government coming in and throwing its weight around. It's much better to be collaborative and co-operative."
BC Conservative: Ryan Hague
Ryan Hague said he is tired of seeing British Columbians living paycheque to paycheque and having to struggle to feed their families.
And as a first-time candidate and father of two toddlers, the BC Conservative believes he's the answer for Port Coquitlam when it comes to improving the economy.
His party's solution? Eliminate unnecessary levies — especially for business — and lower the overall provincial tax rate to stimulate growth and create employment.
Hague, a manager of an electrical contracting company, said once his party is in power, fiscal mismanagement and inefficiencies in government will become things of the past. "I think once we open the books, we're going to find many instances of poorly executed programs through the system," he said, adding, "If business is embraced and allowed to operate as it should, there will be more revenue and higher-paying jobs."
Hague is committed to the BC Conservative platform, having been a party member for three years and the PoCo riding association treasurer for two. The team under leader John Cummings is "the only party out there to bring transparency, accountability and smarter spending" into the debate, he said.
"The other parties are unrealistic when it comes to industrial demands. The NDP have taken a hard line on industrial development and the [BC] Liberals seem to sell our assets and the environment to any corporation willing."
Asked about issues relevant to the riding, Hague said as MLA he would lobby to get the Evergreen Line extended from Coquitlam to PoCo. "I would introduce legislation for that to happen and I would try to find funding for it," he said.
Hague is also in favour of PoCo city council's request to have a more equitable distribution of gaming funds for non-host cities. And, as MLA, he said he would support road and school improvements in the constituency.
Hague said he didn't know enough about School District 43's financial problems to comment, or whether the 20-year RCMP contract was the best choice for the city of PoCo versus a regional police force.
But as he door knocks to canvas for votes, "most people aren't even asking about specific Port Coquitlam stuff," Hague said. "They're really concerned about transparency and accountability of our elected officials. I really think I will be much more loyal and a better choice to bring business and people together."
YPP: Brent Williams
Brent Williams may have placed last with Port Coquitlam voters in the 2009 provincial election but the salesman believes he and his party will poll much better this time around.
Williams is one of two candidates fielded by Your Political Party of BC, a little-known group that aims for government fiscal transparency while keeping the carbon tax and cutting out the property transfer levy.
An SFU economics grad, Williams said "sustainability" is the key to making proper funding choices — whether it be for education, transportation or public safety.
On the School District 43 front, Williams said tough decisions need to be made to balance the books. Cuts should be a last resort for the board of education. "Although I have seen the school system degraded over the last 10 years, I also understand, at the end of the day, ends need to be met," he said.
Williams advocates for adequate before- and after-school care, saying, "If we were able to provide more care for the children, that would provide more opportunities for individuals to go to work and earn money and generate taxes and sustain the system a little bit better."
As for the Evergreen Line coming to Port Coquitlam, Williams stated, "Again, it's one of those sustainability issues. You've got to make sure that, at the end of the day, the budget is balanced. They're building a very expensive style of transportation with SkyTrain."
Asked to clarify his position, Williams responded, "You want us to spend money on our children and improving school funding and improving education, and then you want me to spend money on improving transit? Obviously, all these things are super important but at what point do you want to make these improvements? I would love to see [Evergreen] out here but I don't know if I would be lobbying extremely heavily to make sure there was one extra stop. That's very expensive."
Williams said he's in favour of non-host casino cities receiving a share of gaming facility revenues like in Coquitlam as the Tri-Cities are "very much interlinked."
On the topic of RCMP versus regional policing — a decision the city of PoCo was faced with last summer — Williams said he backs the Mounties. "Their training is very good. I don't think Port Coquitlam is big enough to have its own regional police force. You can look to cities like Port Moody. They certainly spend a lot of money.
"Once again, it comes down to financial sustainability," he said.
• Libertarian Jogender Dahiya did not return a request to be interviewed.
May 9 at 7 p.m. at the PoCo Inn and Suites Hotel and Conference Centre, hosted by the Tri-Cities' Chamber of Commerce.
WHO CAN VOTE?
You can vote — at any polling station in the province — if you are:
• a Canadian citizen;
• 18 years old or more;
• a resident of B.C. (for at least six months);
• a registered voter (you can also register when you vote).
WHAT TO BRING
Take the yellow voting card you received in the mail when it's time for you to vote. As well, you must provide proof of your identity and current residential address. Visit elections.bc.ca or call 1-800-661-8683 for a complete list of acceptable identification.
To cast a ballot earlier than the May 14 general election, advance voting will be open to all voters from Wednesday, May 8 to Saturday, May 11, from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. As well, you can ask for a "vote by mail" package from the district electoral office or through Elections BC at elections.bc.ca.
General voting day is Tuesday, May 14, with the polls open from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m.