There were no major stumbles by any of the four candidates in the Cowichan-Malahat-Langford riding in the upcoming federal election who took part in the candidates forum on Sept. 10.
The candidates each had just one minute to provide answers to a wide variety of questions that were submitted from the public during the two-hour event that was held at the Cowichan Community Centre, which wasn’t open to the public due to health restrictions, but will be streamed online.
The topics included tax rates, residential schools, immigration, infrastructure, housing and the pandemic.
The candidates forum, hosted by the Duncan Cowichan, Chemainus, Lake Cowichan and WestShore chambers of commerce, was attended by the Conservative Party of Canada’s Alana DeLong, the Liberal Party of Canada’s Blair Herbert, the NDP Party of Canada’s Alistair MacGregor and the Green Party of Canada’s Lia Versaevel.
Wade Simmons, from Amber Education, moderated the event.
Mark Hecht, the People’s Party of Canada’s candidate and the only other candidate in the riding, was not invited to participate because it was the policy of the chambers to have only candidates whose parties currently have representation in Parliament, or represent more than 10 per cent of the vote on Vancouver Island, attend.
The forum was recorded and will be available to view on the various chambers YouTube and Facebook pages by the end of the day on Friday, Sept. 10, in time for advance polls that are open during the weekend.
Asked what steps should be taken to balance the federal budget without burdening Canada’s middle class, MacGregor said the NDP is the only party looking at ways to raise alternative revenues without having to raise taxes.
He said one way is to increase taxation on the country’s wealthy citizens and rich corporations.
“More taxes on them would spare the need to increase taxes on the middle class and ensure everyone pays their fair share,” MacGregor said.
DeLong said a Conservative government would work hard to get the economy going again after the pandemic, and that would go a long way to keep taxes down.
“As well, people should never have to pay taxes on the sale of their homes,” she said.
“Your homes are paid for and belong to you. American tech companies should have to pay sales tax because three per cent of their gross revenues comes from Canada, and that would help keep taxes down as well.”
Herbert agreed with DeLong that the sale of homes shouldn’t be taxed because it “doesn’t make sense”.
“If you bought a home in Duncan for $100,000 and now you’re buying a home that is worth $400,000 more than that in Campbell River, you shouldn’t have to pay taxes on it,” he said.
Versaevel said Canada’s GDP is expected to see exponential growth over the next decade, so a Green government would study the entire budget and redirect funds.
“That would ease the tax burden on the middle class,” she said.
Asked what they would do about the issues concerning First Nations and residential schools, Herbert said that it’s been a “tough year” for Canada’s First Nations with the discovery of hundreds unmarked grave sites at a number of the schools.
“One positive thing has come out of it, and that’s that we’re seeing young First Nation people taking on leadership roles,” he said.
“They are well educated and know the issues. We need to get away from the ‘Ottawa-knows-best’ policies and let the ideas on their future come from the First Nations.”
Versaevel said the issue is so much than just a file, it’s about people lives.
“We’ve taken advantage of First Nations for far too long and we need to talk to them on a nation-to-nation basis,” she said.
“We need to restore their languages and we could even start to use some of the Hul’q’umi’num’ language in our daily lives. That would be a very first step in denouncing racism and standing up for people who are under assault.”
MacGregor said the Penelakut Tribe’s March for the Children in Chemainus last month that attracted more than 1,500 people was an incredible sight.
“The discovery of the unmarked graves has reopened old wounds,” he said.
“Now is the time for healing and we need a federal government that will commit to the calls for action from the Truth and Reconciliation Commission.”
DeLong noted the deep sorrow and mourning that First Nations are going through and said it’s time for a swift and timely call for action by the government.
“For example, a Conservative government would fund the exploration of all the residential school sites for more graves,” she said.
“We would also commit $1 billion for mental health support for First Nations to help them recover. I do believe there is work to be done.”
Asked about COVID-19 and vaccinations, MacGregor said vaccinations are the only way out of the ongoing pandemic.
“I’ve had my shots and they were safe,” he said.
“The pandemic’s fourth wave is being driven by those who have not had their shots. We all have to understand about transmission of COVID-19 in public places. I believe there are opportunities for the federal government to help put this disease behind us.”
DeLong said she has been vaccinated and encourages everyone else to do the same.
“If people are concerned about it, they should talk to their doctor, but getting vaccinated is a personal decision,” she said.
“Another way to keep safe is rapid testing. People need to take this seriously and I encourage that everyone get vaccinated.”
Herbert agreed that vaccinations are the way out of the pandemic.
He also said people who won’t get vaccinated are filling up the hospitals.
“If someone is hurt in an accident but the hospitals are overwhelmed with COVID-19 patients who are not vaccinated, I see that as incredibly selfish,” he said.
Versaevel said a national vaccine verification program would help keep consistent and reliable records on who is vaccinated.