There were a few shots fired — and even a few kind words uttered — at an all candidates’ forum Wednesday in Port Moody’s Inlet Theatre.
But with the federal election campaign more than half over, there were no surprises as candidates for the riding of Port Moody-Coquitlam did not veer far from their parties' playbooks on housing affordability, climate change, deficit spending and gun control.
Indeed, but for a few challenges from Liberal Sara Badiei to the NDP’s Bonita Zarrillo and Conservative Nelly Shin, the meeting was a subdued affair, although there was an overflow crowd in the meeting, which was organized by the Tri-Cities Chamber of Commerce.
If there was a policy that showed some sharp divisions, however, it was carbon pricing.
Shin said carbon tax makes “life less affordable” while the Greens' Bryce Watts said carbon taxes have been shown to cut emissions here in B.C., a comment Shin challenged, saying she didn’t know where he got his statistics.
The People’s Party of Canada candidate Jayson Chabot, meanwhile, called carbon pricing “blatant socialism.” He also said the climate change crisis is overblown and if laws were enforced, especially those dealing with illegal workers, many of the problems Canadians are facing would be resolved.
But the issue drew the strongest exchange between Shin and Badiei, as when the Liberal candidate suggested the Conservatives would let corporate polluters off the hook.
Shin retorted that Liberal leader lacked “integrity” himself in his corporate dealings, a comment that drew boos from the crowd.
Gun control was an issue that came up a few times, with Chabot and Shin stating their parties would not punish gun owners, and Shin further suggesting people convicted of gun crimes should be jailed and more money should be used to fight gangs.
Zarrillo said the NDP would allow cities to ban guns while Badiei said her party would ban assault rifles and noted that while living in conflict zones, she heard guns firing all the time and didn’t want that for her two-year-old daughter. As for the Watts, he said handguns should be banned and a buy-back initiative put in place.
The candidates were cordial to the point of being congratulatory, as when Shin thanked the Liberals' Badiei for her party putting $550 million over five years into the arts sector, saying she would “go to bat” if her party threatened to make cuts to arts spending.
But she wasn’t as pleased when Badiei queried the Conservative stance on eliminating deficit spending.
“Nobody has said we’re going to stop growth,” Shin said.
Zarrillo, who championed the NDP’s plan to build affordable housing and put more money into health care and transportation, also took a hit when she was asked by Badiei to explain what her party would do better than the incumbent Liberals.
“When it comes to Pharmacare, the NDP are actually going to do it,” Zarrillo said.
Badiei defended the Liberal record on spending, in particular money for the Canada Child Benefit, which she pointed out has lifted 300,000 out of poverty.
Whether the candidates made an impression is hard to know; partway through the forum, an online poll was released that stated 60% of those attending were undecided.
For the full debate, watch the video on the Tri-Cities Chamber of Commerce Facebook Page.
On balancing the budget:
• Badiei (Liberal): Invest in and grow the economy and then “the taxes come back and balance the budget.”
• Chabot (PPC): Committed to balancing the budget in “two years.”
• Shin (Conservative): Eliminate $1.5 billion in corporate welfare and 25% in cuts to foreign aid to middle income and wealthy countries to balance the budget
• Watts (Green): Redistribute $3.3 billion in subsidies to oil companies to green initiatives and social programs, including dental care for low income Canadians.
• Zarrillo (NDP): The wealthy will be asked to “pay a little bit more” and subsidies to corporations would be redirected to health care, affordable housing
On trade relations with China:
• Badiei: Make sure Canada falls in a good place in international relations but she said, “It scares me that a brand new team might come in.”
• Shin: Dealing with China requires “strong leadership,” noting, “First comes trust, then comes trade.”
• Watts: Canada should “support Hong Kong” and this country can’t “turn its back on the ideals of human rights and social justice just for trade.”
• Zarrillo: Because of international education in School District 43, it’s an “economic driver” and relations need to be dealt with carefully.