The COVID-19 pandemic was omnipresent Tuesday in the first of four local provincial all-candidate meetings hosted by the Tri-Cities Chamber of Commerce.
From the bottles of hand sanitizer placed on the table in front of the candidates seeking voter support in the Coquitlam-Maillardville riding to the questions asked and the answers given, the public health emergency presented an ongoing theme even as BC Liberal hopeful Will Davis criticized the NDP government for calling the snap election in the first place.
“I find it difficult to believe the NDP believe in safety first when they’ve called an election in a pandemic,” he said, adding the act of sending people to the polls puts them at risk of transmitting the novel coronavirus that causes COVID-19 or bringing it into school environments where many of those polls are situated.
But NDP incumbent Selina Robinson, running for her third straight mandate as an MLA, said the Oct. 24 vote is all about ensuring B.C. residents have the foundations of economic certainty, as well as access to healthcare, childcare and transit that will help keep them safe during the current crisis and beyond.
“If people aren’t healthy and feel safe, they can’t participate in the economy,” she said.
Green Party candidate Nicola Spurling said a minority government with her party once again holding the balance of power would be the best way to move the province past the pandemic.
“I believe collaboration is a good way to create policy,” she said, adding such policies need to support forward-thinking solutions like investment in high-tech and clean-tech industry to stimulate a recovering economy, as well as social services, affordable housing and education.
Robinson said her government is making progress in all of those areas. She even acknowledged some of that has come because the NDP worked closely with the Green Party over the past three years. But much more remains to be accomplished.
“Putting people at the centre of public policy ensures they get the help they need,” Robinson said.
Davis said that’s the same motivation driving the BC Liberal platform that will put money into the pockets of people and the tills of small businesses.
“People need to make sure we get through this safely and have dignity,” he said of his party’s proposals that include a one-year hiatus for the provincial sales tax.
Spurling criticized the tax cut idea as short-sighted and that it would end up leaving many people worse off after the pandemic as it will likely mean less money is available for social services and education.
Locally, Robinson said housing is the riding’s most pressing issue.
The former minister of municipal affairs and housing said Coquitlam-Maillardville needs more diverse housing that provides empty-nesters a way to downsize, affordable homes for families and more options for seniors.
Davis said “safety is job one,” especially as cases of COVID-19 continue to rise through the fall.
“We have done well, but the first order of business is how to we continue to be safe,” he said.
Spurling said education is the riding’s biggest need.
“I truly believe investing in education is investing in our future,” she said.
• The second debate, for candidates in the Port Moody-Coquitlam riding, was held later Tuesday evening. Candidates for Port Coquitlam will debate on Facebook Live this evening, from 6 to 7:15 p.m. while candidates for Coquitlam-Burke Mountain convene at 8 to 9:15 p.m.