Port Moody-Coquitlam candidates spar over support for business hurt by COVID-19

Debate hosted by Tri-Cities Chamber of Commerce provides voters with an insight into how their candidates perform under pressure

All-candidates meetings are typically a bellwether for the election, with crowds clapping and cheering for their candidate as the moderator tries to reign in uncivil behaviour.

Without those cheering crowds, Tuesday’s meeting between Port Moody-Coquitlam candidates was as quiet as a church meeting.

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Two candidates were missing, John Latimer from the BC Green Party and Logan Smith from the Libertarian Party, and with platforms so recently released by party leaders, three candidates who did participate didn’t provide a lot of details in the debate organized by the Tri-Cities Chamber of Commerce.

However, many of their talking points reflected statements made by the B.C. party leaders at a televised debate earlier in the evening.

Still, there were moments of fireworks as BC NDP incumbent Rick Glumac faced off with BC Liberal challenger James Robertson and the BC Conservative’s Brandon Fonseca.

In fact, the event archived online, is instructional for voters in the riding who want to see how their candidates perform under pressure — something politicians must be able to handle in the rough and tumble politics of the B.C. legislature.

At one point Glumac was roundly thrashed by Robertson and Fonseca for what they said was a “sink or swim” statement about B.C.’s tourism industry crushed by the COVID-19 pandemic.

“It’s the nature of COVID that the tourism industry would find challenges,” Glumac said, noting that travel prohibitions have impacted tourism businesses.

And though he promised to work with businesses and an NDP government to bring back a strong economy, his comments were quickly set upon by Robertson, who said Glumac’s “sink or swim” statement was representative of the BC NDP’s attitude, which he said was: “We’re going to let people in the tourism sector flounder because that’s the nature of COVID.” 

Fonseca, meanwhile, also criticized Glumac. He said the BC Conservatives would introduce a tax credit to encourage people to visit B.C. towns, thereby “stimulating business within our communities.”

The all-candidates meeting held virtually via Facebook Live and organized by the Tri-Cities Chamber of Commerce, provided plenty of opportunities for candidates to talk about what their party would do for business, as well as child care, affordable housing, the environment, resource industries and to deal with COVID-19.

Robertson said B.C. is on a “war-like” footing and needs bold action, such as the elimination of the PST for a year, and just 3% the next year. As well, he cited Liberal’s plan to cut business taxes and work with municipal governments to build more housing more quickly.

Fonseca said the BC Conservatives have plans such as introducing the private sector to compete with ICBC, something the Liberals are also promising, and eliminating the carbon tax. He said his party would also consult with businesses to see what they need.

Meanwhile, Glumac defended his government’s economic plan, including grants for small business, A PST reduction on machinery and equipment and a 15% tax credit for hiring new employees.

He said it was important to consult before introducing an economic recovery plan.

“We’ve come to these points in dialogue with the business community.”

As well, he said the BC NDP has made good on its plan to introduce $10 a day childcare, helping 32,000 families, and building thousands of affordable homes toward a 10-year goal of 114,000 units.

As for his challengers’ comments about his “sink or swim” attitude, Glumac said they mis-characterized his comments.

“No one is saying sink or swim. We are in a difficult situation,” Glumac said, suggesting that the NDP government would continue to work towards policies that will help the tourism industry while ensuring that BC residents remain safe.

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