For the first time since the snap election was called, Coquitlam-Port Coquitlam candidates in the 2021 federal election were seated next to each other to make the case why they should represent the region.
On Tuesday night (Sept. 7), the Tri-Cities Chamber of Commerce hosted a pair of forums at Westwood Plateau Golf and Country Club, giving candidates the chance to address certain issues that matter to constituents.
For Coquitlam-Port Coquitlam, there were a number of hot-button topics in which the candidates sought the opportunity to explain their respective parties' platforms, including economic recovery and jobs, the federal budget, reconciliation with Indigenous peoples and immigration.
However, there were also issues that mattered more to the riding than others in which the political hopefuls decided to take a strong stance in hopes local voters will put their trust in them.
Supports for businesses in COVID-19 pandemic recovery was one of them and were echoed more loudly by Conservative Katerina Anastasiadis, who currently serves as executive director of the Abbotsford Chamber of Commerce, but has 20-year roots in the riding.
She says a Tory government wouldn't leave small businesses behind.
"We need to make sure that we are driving investment and job creation into our communities; local jobs, of course, too. We can't afford more of this unsustainable, alarming spending that we've seen from the federal Liberal government for the past six years and obviously, recognize the need to be there during a crisis for businesses and for people," the 39-year-old explained in an interview with the Tri-City News, while also claiming the Conservatives can get jobs back to pre-pandemic levels within one year in office.
"To have this huge, huge debt burden, which inevitably, the middle class is the largest source of tax revenue and that's where it's going to come from."
Anastasiadis also presented the idea of expanding public transit options to Port Coquitlam, a community she feels has been under served in transportation needs.
She even raised the possibility of brining a SkyTrain station to the city.
"I've witnessed such a huge growth and new demographics like young families, new professionals, they're all coming to our area and we absolutely need to have better transportation in order to support that growth. I think it's a no-brainer that Port Coquitlam should have the SkyTrain extended to there."
From the NDP's point-of-view, Laura Dupont believes she knows the Coquitlam-Port Coquitlam riding and what its priorities are in the election.
At the forefront, climate change.
The federal New Democrats have the only platform of the "big three" that would cease the Trans Mountain pipeline project, Dupont said, and she claims the local environment will be in greater danger from climate change if it's built.
"Our communities, especially our riding, are very [much] at risk for flooding," the Port Coquitlam city councillor told the Tri-City News.
"We're already at a big chunk of a flood zone and rising sea levels pose a huge risk for this community. Poor air quality from a summer full of fires is something that directly impacts our health in an extremely negative way. We are sacrificing the health and well-being of our communities by staying on the fossil fuel treadmill that we've been on for far too long."
The issue has become a (figurative) hot topic as well with the three heat waves the Lower Mainland endured this past summer, which led to the deaths of hundreds of British Columbians.
Having served on countless committees that put the health and well-being of humanity and its surrounding environment first, Dupont believes her resume proves she can get results if elected to parliament.
"I think I have solid policy experience, I've volunteered a lot in the community, raised my family here and I think I know our community really well because I've worked so hard in previous campaigns."
Incumbent Liberal Ron McKinnon is looking to earn a third term in Ottawa in representing Coquitlam-Port Coquitlam.
When talking about climate change, he believes local voters can understand that it's a real threat and that the Liberal government has taken more steps than meets the eye in mitigating the battle.
"We've taken real and positive and definitive action. Our plan will exceed our previous Paris [Accords] commitments [...] and of course, we've adopted more objectives that will be in the net-zero for 2050," McKinnon explained to the Tri-City News after the debate.
"Dr. Andrew Weaver, former Green Party leader in B.C. and an IPCC climate specialist, a Nobel laureate, he rated our platform higher than any of the other parties. He said it's bold, it's effective and it's realistic. We have inspired experts to understand that we have a good plan, we have the means to deliver it and we are well on the way to doing so."
McKinnon also hopes constituents can continue to depend on his experience across all major issues and trust the Liberals moving forward.
"I think there's a lot of potentials that we have delivered on, but there's so much more that we can do to make it better and we have a plan in place to do so."
Election day is scheduled for Monday, Sept. 20.
People's Party of Canada candidate Kimberly Brundell didn't attend the candidates' debate last night.
Tri-Cities Chamber CEO Leslie Courchesne explained the forum was based on criteria set by the Leaders' Debates Commission, meaning candidates could only participate if their party had an elected MP when an election was called on Aug. 15, or if their party received at least 4% of the vote in the last federal election or in the most recent polling.
The evening included opening and closing statements and each candidate was given 90 seconds to answer a question presented to the floor.
You can view the full video below.
SECOND DEBATE CANCELLED
100 Debates for the Environment has cancelled its Port Moody-Coquitlam debate originally scheduled for this evening (Sept. 8) due to a lack of participation from the candidates.
According to the organization only five of the nine across the two ridings responded to attending the event, but two dropped out Tuesday night because of "unforeseen circumstances."