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SBOT – Candidates Debate – Questions and Answers Everything you need to know about Surrey Candidates

SBOT – Candidates Debate – Questions and Answers  Everything you need to know about Surrey Candidates

Photo by Melissa at the Surrey Board of Trade

The 2017 Surrey Board of Trade Provincial Candidates Debate was held at the Sheraton Hotel on Wednesday, April 24th. It was standing room only, as the community gathered to hear what the candidates for the provincial election has to say.

Moderated by Dr. Greg Thomas, Chair of the Surrey Board of Trade, 17 candidates representing 7 of the 9 ridings in Surrey answered rotating questions.

Questions were submitted by Surrey Board of Trade advocacy teams, Surrey Board of Trade members, community members, and by the sponsoring partner of the event, the Fraser Valley Real Estate Board

Each candidate had one minute to answer the question. The candidates had no idea what the questions were until they were standing at the mic.

Candidates attending included:

From Surrey Cloverdale

Aleksandra Muniak, Green

Marvin Hunt, Liberal, and

Rebecca Smith, NDP

From Surrey – Green Timbers

Saira Aujla, Green

Brenda Locke, Liberal

Rachna Singh, NDP

From Surrey Guildford

Jodi Murphy, Green

Amrik Virk, Liberal

Garry Begg, NDP

From Surrey Fleetwood

Tim Binnema, Green

Peter Fassbender, Liberal

Jagrup Brar, NDP

Running in Surrey South

Stephanie Cadieux, Liberal

Jonathan Sulveira, NDP

Running in Surrey Whalley

Sargy Chima, Liberal

Bruce Ralston, NDP

Running in Surrey White Rock

Niovi Patsicakis

Not represented: Surrey Newton and Surrey Panorama.


Surrey Cloverdale

Aleksandra Muniak – BC Green Party – Surrey-Cloverdale

Marvin Hunt – BC Liberals – Surrey-Cloverdale

Rebecca Smith – NDP – Surrey-Cloverdale

Rebecca Smith – NDP – Surrey-Cloverdale


The NDP recently announced a $400 annual grant for renters, similar to the homeowner grant. What is your opinion on this?

Marvin Hunt, Liberal:

I haven’t really thought about a renter’s tax credit because I have problems understanding it. The homeowners Grant was trying to deal with the individuals who own their home and are working with their home versus someone who’s (owns a home) as a business and has it as a business write off and uses the expenses as a business write off. What we’re dealing with renters, we have no plans that I know of, of giving renters tax credit because the individuals are paying property taxes through their landlord and the landlord is, in fact, writing those off as a business expense. so as far as I know we aren’t doing that simply because again, (for) affordability and trying to keep your taxes down. Those dollars have to come from somewhere in order to be able to pay those people.

Rebecca Smith, NDP:

Obviously I’m in favour of a $400 renters rebate and the reason being that for the last 16 years the BC Liberals have paid no attention to the affordability for average working citizens. We had previous questions about how to keep Surrey an affordable place to live when wages have not gone up at the same rate as housing costs, mortgages (and) rent. When rentals are available, their pricing has gone sky high whereas people salaries have not kept up. We need to acknowledge that while homeownership is a wonderful goal and everyone wants their own home, not everyone can afford it, particularly at the rates they are now (so) we need to acknowledge that that there are people in the city that can only rent. (A good rental market is) also good for attracting skilled labor. Our employers need to have houses for the people that they employ and we need to make sure that our families are not living without a place.

Aleksandra Muniak, Green:

The one thing that I’m really proud of the BC greens for doing is that all of our decision making is evidence-based and what we really strive to do is give a path forward into the future that is going to be sustainable. I personally do not think that $33 a month is going to help anybody in our current affordability crisis. Because $33 a month is usually not the amount you’re short on rent.

BC Greens have committed to making sure that we focus on identifying root causes to the problem. The problem is that we don’t have an affordable rental options for people so we’re going to commit to 4000 affordable housing options each year over the next four years to make sure that they’re available. We’re going to really aggressively work on cooling the market. Right now we have an issue because it is a speculative market so we’re going to increase the foreign buyers tax by 30% and making sure that we can cool down the market to make it more affordable for people who do want to buy.

Surrey currently has a birth rate of 480 babies per month and there is already a 12,000 deficit for childcare spaces (0-12 years) in Surrey. What are your immediate and long-term plans for child care infrastructure?

Aleksandra Muniak, Green:

So the BC Greens have made a substantial commitment to education in our life long learning strategies. One thing that we recognize is that there is a need for affordable day care and safe day care spaces across the province. So we are proposing that we’re going to provide free daycare for children under the age of three so it’s not a barrier for parents returning to work. We are also going to invest heavily in early childhood education providing 25 hours a week for free for children ages 3 to 4 just to make sure they have access to early childhood education as well.

Marvin Hunt, Liberal:

Our position for childcare is to increase it. We know that there’s a demand for it and in Surrey and demand continues to grow. We have had a number of programs and intakes of people wanting to start daycare. We’ve been helping them on the capital cost (side) of that. I can’t remember the number off the top of my head but it’s in the thousands. 30,000 is what sitting in my head but I can’t remember if that’s exactly correct. We’re working on having more and more daycare but the ultimate thing is that we believe in parental decisions and we support the parents, so our condition is that we will keep the money in the parents pockets to reduce taxes but also through childcare subsidies to the parents so that the parents can choose how they wish to have their children raised. We are working with them to have the resources for them to be able to take care of their children and their early childhood education.

Rebecca Smith, NDP:

I think this is a fundamental question that we all must talk about. It’s about families, it’s about children but it’s also about our economy, our employers and the way we live our lives. British Columbia childcare rates have skyrocketed. It can cost up to $1700 a month for daycare in the lower mainland. This is unmanageable for most families, particularly given that most salaries have not increased. The BC NDP has, as have the BC Chamber of Commerce, endorsed the $10 a day daycare plan.  We will phase this in over 10 years focusing first on the 0 to 24 month age, which is the hardest age to find a space for. This is important for all of us. It not only creates spaces that are safe and regulated for our children and gives them a better start in life but it will also create jobs for the people to provide those daycare positions and it will also save our employers and (give) our working parents the ability to get out there and work.

The Surrey Board of Trade has a policy to remove the MSP. What will be your direction on MSP?

Rebecca Smith, NDP:

I’m sure that everyone in this room knows that the BC NDP has committed to eliminate the MSP before the end of our four-year first mandate in the government. We are the only province in Canada that actually pays the MSP. While people say that we have the lowest tax rate in Canada also that’s false. The MSP is actually a flat regressive tax that does not pay attention to what people earn and the affordability thereof. It makes no sense to continue doing that. There are other ways to do this. Christie Clark is on record having said that everyone knows the MSP premiums do not pay for healthcare. We know this and we need to address this. We need to talk about how to do that properly, how to sustain our healthcare system. It’s hugely important. It doesn’t matter how successful we are in business if we don’t have our health we don’t have anything. We need to protect it and continue it and be fair to all our taxpaying citizens

Aleksandra Muniak, Green:

And as far as the Green Party stands, we too will be eliminating the MSP premiums. We will be rolling them over into our tax system so therefore it will be incorporated and carried out based on earnings similar to your income tax. This makes it fair so that it’s not the same person who makes $100,000 a year is paying the same amount to someone who’s making only $50,000 a year. We understand that the MSP premium is a regressive tax as Rebecca had mentioned. There’s no need for it and part of the initiatives of the BC Green party is to make sure that we look for a sustainable method of moving forward into the future and that we have plans and policies that makes sense.

Marvin Hunt, Liberal:

Because our economy has grown and we have prospered, the income that we have as a government has increased, so that is why the BC Liberals have committed to next year, for those that are making under $120,000 a year the MSP premiums will be cut in half. Then we will be working from there too in fact remove the MSP premiums as the economy continues to grow. Our plan is not to put it into income tax or other forms of taxes. We believe that the money that’s coming in right now and will continue to come in as we grow in the future will in fact pay for that so that it will be removed. Right now over half of British Columbians don’t pay anything for it because there is a graduated tax at this point, where those, I believe it’s under $40,000 a year pay absolutely nothing so our plan is to get there as the economy continues to grow.

Conclusions:

Alexandra Muniak – Green Party:

Thank you for having me here tonight my name is Alexandra Muniak and I am here as a candidate for the BC Green party for Surrey Cloverdale.  One of the things I love most about the BC Greens, and one thing that drew me to them, was one of their core guiding principles. That is that the sole purpose of government is to facilitate the highest and best outcome of health and wellness for this coming generation and future generations of British Columbians.

That’s a value I hold deep in my heart. I grew up in Surrey. I own a small business in Surrey and I’m raising my family in Cloverdale. I love the opportunities that have been presented to my family and me there but like many people who are just starting their lives out and people who are now growing in Cloverdale, there is an uncertainty growing within us. What does our future look like?

This election is about what we want our future British Columbia to look like and who are the leaders that are going to take us there. What we need now are leaders that are innovative. Leaders that are passionate.  Leaders that have a strong vision for our communities. These are the type of people that we need to elect and I’m proud to stand with the BC Green party because our leader Andrew Weaver has a very strong commitment and strong vision for British Columbia. One that is based on sustainability. One that is evidence-based and one that simply makes sense.

It doesn’t need to be complicated. We’ve been taught that taxes are negative thing.  We have been taught that there is only one way to move forward (and) that is to cut social programs. The reality is that we look around we see those sacrifices every day.

Marvin Hunt – BC Liberals:

I have had the awesome privilege of being able to serve you on school board, 23 years on Surrey council and now for the past four years in Victoria. During those years I’ve had the awesome pleasure of being able to work with the challenges of the city and dealing with the priorities. Because we all know that nobody wants to pay more taxes but everybody wants more services so the challenge is how do you balance those. I also had the privilege of being part of a team that delivered nine years of zero tax increase while we kept control of our spending. We just didn’t do it by saying a simple freeze. What we did was we also worked at reducing cost within the structure itself of government. And that’s the challenge.

Any group can say I’m going to freeze whatever the fee is or whatever the thing is but if you’re just holding it over time and not making systemic changes you’re going to have a bubble at the end to deal with. I’m proud of the BC Liberals. That we have worked at trying to keep this province affordable, keep our costs reasonable so that we can all work together. That’s where we’re going in the future. You don’t hear me giving you lots of promises that we’re going to spend here there and everywhere when we don’t have the money. We’re telling you exactly where that money is coming from so that we can have a greater province of British Columbia.

Rebecca Smith – BC NDP

I’m glad your here because this evening and indeed this election is about choice. You have the choice of deciding whether to have more of the same or building a better British Columbia. We’ve had 16 years of the BC Liberal government and they’ve had the chance to prove what they’re going to do. At this time in 2017 we have more homeless people than ever before. We have more people using the food bank than ever before. Affordability is at an all time low and people simply cannot afford to buy a home let alone rent one. This is the base of our life today. We have families that cannot afford to rent in Surrey, which used to be the affordable option. We have employers trying to recruit people to work for them but their staff have nowhere to live. They can’t afford day care. Their children are learning in portables. 7000 children are in portables. This is talking about what is a priority for your government. We need to put people first. We can talk about the economy all we want but the economy is meant to serve the people of British Columbia and today the people have been forgotten. John Horgan of the BC NDP have a solid costed out plan to make life more affordable, to return services that we need and depend on, to have our families have the great life and to create a better British Columbia. (I am) Rebecca Smith running in Surrey, Cloverdale.

From Surrey – Green Timbers

Saira Aujla, BC Green Party – Surrey-Green Timbers

Brenda Locke, Liberal – Surrey-Green Timbers

Rachna Singh, NDP, Surrey – Green Timbers

Legalization of marijuana will occur in 2018 – how will you protect schools and workplaces?

Rachna Singh – NDP:

The legalization is coming from the federal government and it has just been announced. Our take is we have to see that it is properly regulated. The legalization is all about the health and safety of our kids. I think that it is a very new thing coming in. We will be working as a provincial government, working with the federal government to see that it is properly regulated.

Saira Aujla – Green:

I will work with all levels of government to make sure that all the rules and regulations are done properly. Any liquor stores should not be close to any schools. That is a must. Any other issues coming along for the guidelines, we will work with each and (with) parents.

Brenda Locke – Liberal:

This is a new challenge for us in British Columbia and we have to take a thorough look at what the actual act is going to say and how we’re going to address it. Certainly we have to be concerned about children. In the greater good, this is part of harm reduction but it does pose a significant challenge to government to get the right mix of provincial legislation so that everybody (is) protected especially children and especially school areas.

 

Realtors would like to see the Property Transfer Tax exemption for first-time homebuyers raised to $750,000 from $500,000 to align with the existing exemption for newly-built homes to give homebuyers more options. Do you support this change? Why or why not?

Saira Aujla – Green:

Yes, I can’t really support that (because) we do have another plan. BC and Green (Party) will give the first $200,000 for the first time homebuyers, they don’t have to pay that tax they just pay the balance. On the other hand $750,000 on the new homes is already exempted.

Brenda Locke – Liberal:

I think that is an important question especially for us here in Surrey who are seeing house prices skyrocket in the last few years so I would personally support that and I think it was a good reason to support that and I think it’s a great initiative.

Rachna Singh – NDP:

As we have all talked about affordability (in) Surrey and also housing prices giving these exemptions is one way to deal with the issue but we have to go to that issue about affordability. How people can afford the home. So that’s why NDP has concrete plan to build 114,000 homes. So that people can afford houses and those are for seniors, youth and families. So making (the) housing market more affordable and then easing the other real estate market so that there’s more affordability for everyone.

What investments on public safety will you advocate for?

Brenda Locke – Liberal:

You know there is no simple or easy answer for the challenges we face with public safety. It’s really a many-pronged approach. Certainly education for kids, education for children that are going astray and that’s (a) really important investment for us all to make and be prepared to make. But there are also big investments for us to make in terms of what we are doing with our courts and what we are doing with actually incarcerating people. There are many aspects to this. It is not easy to do a one minute answer to it but the BC Liberal party has been very active and very aggressive about how we are dealing with those kind of issues especially focusing a lot of that on the gang task force right here in Surrey so we are very committed to addressing those challenges.

Rachna Singh – NDP:

We are very committed to providing public safety and that is a huge concern in Surrey Green Timbers. Our leader, John Horgan has already announced $500,000 to the Wrap Around Program. That already is there but no funding has been provided to that. So this is a program in collaboration with Surrey Schools and the City of Surrey that will prevent our kids from getting into gangs. That is a huge investment for our kids, to keep them safe. Also we will provide resources so that all the backlog we have in the courts can be dealt with so that all the cases will be dealt with in a quick and timely manner.

Saira Aujla – Green:

BC Green will invest $495 million into all these projects so at least we have some professional advice from professionals that can come out and train our kids. We would like everybody to come and support all this because if we have professionals teaching our kids what is wrong (and) what is right then I think the crime rate will go down.

Conclusions:

Rachna Singh, BC NDP:

Thank you so much for giving me this opportunity.  I am Rachna Singh, the NDP candidate for Surrey Green Timbers. I came to Canada in 2001. It was hard to come to a new country, settling down. But I feel like 16 years later that life is harder for people. I’m talking to a lot of people and I feel that people are struggling. 16 years of Liberals. And they talk about the economy and all that they have done.  When I knock on the doors, people are just so, it is hard for them to make ends meet. They’re working two or three jobs. They are paying more, whether it is BC Hydro, MSP, ICBC. We have talked a lot about housing prices. A lot of people for them it’s just a dream. They want to have a house but it seems that dream is getting further and further every day. Also about our services, being a mother of two children who are in the public education system, I have seen what effect the funding cuts of had on our children. It took the other government 16 years to come and say that they would invest in our children. I’m proud to be part of a party, BC NDP that will work for the families, work for the children, will make life more affordable by reducing the MSP, freezing BC Hydro, eliminating the tolls. Also putting in more services like public education and healthcare. Thank you.

Brenda Locke BC Liberal Party:/h4>

I don’t live in Jagrup’s Surrey. I live in a Surrey that’s actually a pretty great place to live and I’m proud to live here. I remember all too well the decade of despair. I remember when I got elected first in 2001 and looking at our books and going wow and then all the secret little things we found that even blew us away more. I remember all those things. I remember a Tech BC that was a failing university and thank goodness we were able to turn that over and make it into (the) SFU of today. I remember the Green Timbers land that had absolutely nothing there but a ton of potential and I’m so proud that E-division of the RCMP is now there. I’m so proud that Jimmy Pattison is now there. That is what is happened under the BC Liberals in the last number of years. I just look at our city, we’ve seen the South Perimeter Rd; we’ve seen all the changes to the city and it has been tremendous. We have had exponential growth and I think we are all trying to keep up with (it) Even the traffic has grown. There are always challenges with that kind of growth, and that kind of energy. Thank you I’m Brenda Locke.

Saira Aujla, BC Green Party:

I’ve been living in Surrey for the last 30 years and I’m a realtor for the last 25 years in the lower mainland. I work throughout the region. I raised my four kids in Surrey. They were all born here. My two older ones were OK in school but my two younger ones are struggling. My daughter was supposed to graduate a few years back but due to the strike she did not. Now my son is having a challenge in school due to bullying in schools. Talking about marijuana growing in houses it’s going to be incredible you just see when the time comes but as a mother I will not buy a house which does have (that) growing in that house because first of all it’s your health and second it’s your safety. Will you want to live in a house where there has been a grow-op? No, I will never buy it nor would I ever sell that stuff to my clients without disclosing that there has been a grow-op. You know seniors cannot take that smell. Kids cannot take that smell. So we have to be very very careful about all these properties. May 9, whoever you want to vote (for), at least vote please.

From Surrey Guildford

Jodi Murphy, BC Green Party – Surrey-Guildford

Amrik Virk, Liberal – Surrey-Guildford

Garry Begg, NDP – Surrey-Guildford

How will you commit to South of Fraser funding for post-secondary seats and K-12 infrastructure funding?

Amrik Virk, Liberal:

First of all, you would have noticed the $217 million dollar announcement that will create over 10,000 K-12 seats (in) Surrey. That’s going to a method in which the school board is able to refine which project they want to work on and which products are ready for the drawing board and which products are ready for construction. And that process is very much underway. As it relates to post secondary education, many of you would have noticed a substantial investment of $126 million, recently invested in SFU Surrey which (was) created in one announcement, 455 energy systems engineering positions.  This is building a knowledge-based economy, where we get excellent world-class education K-12 here. We get excellent world-class university education right here and all of this can change not only BC, not only Canada, but the whole world with the kind of things that they can do with that kind of education right here in Surrey.

Garry Begg, NDP:

It’s almost like the past 16 years haven’t happened. We are where we are today because of the neglect of the government in looking after infrastructure. We hear every day that we have 7000 kids in this district in portables. Christy Clark’s answer has been to ignore it and then when she was forced to acknowledge it, she spent millions of dollars fighting it in the Supreme Court of Canada where again, she was found to be wrong. We have to look after our youth. In the future, we have committed for post secondary students, interest free student loans so students who today cannot afford post secondary education can get the education they deserve.

Jodi Murphy, Green:

The Green party’s education commitment as part of their platform is called, The Lifelong Learning Education. That recognizes that we begin learning as early as daycare right through to adult education. For K-12 we recognize that the current commitment of the government of $220 million to restore funding that was removed prior to the recent ruling of the Supreme Court of Canada and we would increase that by $229 in the first year. And as the biggest expenditure investment of our entire platform, that amounts to 1.46 billion by the year 2020. That is a lot of money going to K-12 education, education infrastructure and staffing levels. At the post secondary level they are moving to a system of needs based grants for students that have difficulty paying tuition is as well as $2000 tax forgiveness for students.

We have noted that red-tape reduction has occurred in recent years. What are your plans to assist businesses in Surrey?

Jodi Murphy, BC Green:

Red tape reduction is definitely a work in progress I would have to say. I know it has been. I think they have a whole ministry devoted to that or even a holiday devoted to celebrating red tape reduction but we have a long way to go to achieve improving regulations (that) help entrepreneurs and business in Surrey. The BC greens platform on the economy is to target the emerging economy and supporting innovation and entrepreneurs.

Garry Begg, NDP:

We all know that Surrey is a rapidly growing community in terms of people moving here and industries. We are attracting industries both big and small so it’s really a two-pronged approach that we must take. We must be careful to ensure that citizens are protected by legitimate legislation. We (need to) streamline the process so that it can become as nimble and as quick as we possibly can. Red tape production means, hopefully that the process itself from beginning to and will take a short period of time. We will know we have succeeded, when it becomes quicker but (still) recognizes those needs.

Amrik Virk, Liberal:

I’m going to have to get slightly partisan on this, past performance usually dictates future performance and my friend (referring to Gary Begg) certainly may not know the facts but in the 10 years that his party was in (power), red tape went up astronomically. Businesses fled this province to go anywhere else but British Columbia. They only came back when the NDP left in 2001. We have created a ministry of small business and red tape reduction where for every new regulation there has been more than one that has been reduced. It’s a climate where business can thrive. Businesses want to come to where you have balance budgets; where are you know you can keep more of the profits in your pocket; where you invest and can have returns.  That’s the environment that we have created in the last 16 years. Where not only Canada, not only North America but the world wants to invest in this province and not want to flee this province.

There are numerous reports on the need for “affordable” housing for those in need and the working population – those earning above $30,000 – who do not have a down payment. What would be your solutions for our working population?

Amrik Virk, Liberal:

First of all, there’s always the suggestion that someone must do for us. In a province like British Columbia, that has the lowest unemployment rate in Canada, we create and continue to create a strong economy. Like I say, rising tides lift up all ships. There’s an opportunity to raise everybody’s standard by doing so. There are those who may at times need support. While the BC Liberals have been a government, there’s been five billion dollars invested in affordable housing around this province and in fact in (the) balanced budget 2017 there is almost $1 billion ($952 million) that is slated for affordable housing (and) a variety of different needs. There are 104,000 households today that are receiving some form of assistance. We are going to continue to assist them in affordable housing but there is one way to do so, (it is when) you grow the economy. Get the money in the bank account, and then you can afford to do something. You just don’t pull money out of the air, folks.

Jodi Murphy, BC Green:

There are a lot of initiatives within the Green Parties platform to address this particular issue. The changing of the property transfer tax to a more progressive system will actually lower the property transfer tax for homes under $1 million so that will help with people who are trying to get into the market at the lower end. As part of the income security platform there’s an investment of $100 million per year that is specifically for protecting and retrofitting existing social housing to make sure that that existing stock is available to us in the long term. There’s also an investment in affordable housing, 4000 units per year for the four years of the Green Party’s term is what our commitment is to produce new affordable housing units.

Garry Begg, NDP:

A government that is financed largely by the real estate industry is not paying attention to the needs of people who can’t afford homes. Christie Clark’s friends who donate big money to her are leaders in the real estate industry. While the government sits idle, the prices of gone through the roof. We need social housing. We’ve committed in our platform to hundreds of thousands of housing units here in British Columbia. We can’t ignore the fact. It’s nice that we acknowledge that there are poor people or people who have less money than the very rich but we actually have to do something about it. So we’ve made that commitment. We will insure that there is housing available to those people in need. We have to look after those people or no one else will.

Conclusions:

Jodi Murphy, BC Green:

I’m with the BC Green party because it’s built on six core principles. That keeps us focused above all else on the overall well being of British Columbians. The clear complete vision for BC that’s laid out in our platform is hands-down, the broadest and most inclusive picture of future successes and security for British Columbia. A long-term vision. Not one that sells off crown assets to achieve a balanced budget. Those are our assets. That is our children’s future security. That is not vision and good planning for the future.   Instead BC Greens vision is one that turns BC towards the changes that we cannot avoid and towards the tremendous opportunities created by becoming a true leader in the emerging economy because that is where the whole world is at. With over 10 years at a local company, serving one of BC’s most challenging industries, pulp and paper, and as a senior manager there, I have responsibility for advising and implementing strategic management. (I) try to secure a future for that business and the hard-working people both young and old who work there. My education, knowledge and experience all tell me that the BC Greens platform is the only one choosing long-term success over short-term gain and recognizing that expenditures on people are actually the best investment a government can make.

Amrik Virk – Liberal:

I am a father. I am husband. I am a retired police officer. I am very privileged to be in this country, I am an immigrant. My values are the values that my father taught me. The values of working hard, (and) the values of planning for the future. The values of being pragmatic, practical, (and) of having results that can be achieved. The values of making sure that my children live in a British Columbia that’s even stronger than today. (The) British Columbia that my father came to. (It was) one of the strongest and best places in the world to live and (it) continues and still is one of the best places in the world to live in, contrary to the fear mongering that I continue to hear. That is not the BC that we live in. We are the best place in the world and that’s why I am here. We want to continue to be practical (and) pragmatic. We want to put a policy in a platform together that is achievable and that is affordable and that is doable. That’s why am running for reelection at Surrey Guildford.

Gary Begg – NDP:

I want to thank the Surrey Board of Trade for the opportunity to be here tonight and to thank you for your polite and rapt attention. This is an important time in the history of British Columbia. I think we face a tremendous challenge here and a tremendous opportunity. Changes about to happen, I believe, and change is good. And we should embrace that. When we look at the record of the Liberal party in this province, it has not been good. People are falling farther and farther behind every day. Things are getting tougher and that’s the reality the Liberal party does not want to acknowledge. How can that be? You know I spent almost all of my working life as a public servant. I dealt largely, every day, with evidence. Evidence is important. People are judged, not on what they say but what they do. But here we have a Liberal party who wants you to ignore the fact that we’re not swimming in riches from LNG. They want you to forget about the triple deletes and the scandals that have plagued this government. I ask you to make a reasonable decision based upon the evidence and if you do that and you search your heart I think you will vote for the new Democratic Party. Thank you.

From Surrey Fleetwood

Tim Binnema, BC Green Surrey-Fleetwood

Peter Fassbender, Liberal – Surrey-Fleetwood

Jagrup Brar, NDP Surrey-Fleetwood

Does your party have any plans to raise or lower personal taxes? Businesses taxes?

Tim Binnema – BC Green:

Our plan for business taxes is to increase it by 1% but more importantly across the whole tax spectrum we’re moving to a more fair tax system. For example, we’re getting rid of the MSP all together and we’re going to roll it up into (something) similar to CPP or payroll deductions. It will depend on your income, so some of those with little or no income will not be charged any tax for the MSP. Also we have to think about the public transfer tax. We are going to make it more scaled. For higher value homes the taxes will be higher, for lower value homes the taxes will be lower. This will benefit the government by pulling more tax on all of these high value homes where people can afford it and make it more affordable for the people that can’t.

Peter Fassbender, Liberal:

Clearly the BC Liberal party has the lowest income tax rates currently in the country. The lowest corporate taxes (as well) and we have committed to freezing taxes over the next three years. That’s in our budget. Our belief and our track record has shown that by encouraging lower taxes you encourage economic investment by (allowing) small business (to grow and by) creating jobs. By freezing personal taxes you leave money in people’s pockets. That is the goal, that is the track record of the BC Liberal party and we commit to do that in the future as well.

Jagrup Brar, NDP:

I disagree with Mr. Fassbender. I think the reality is that Christie Clark and the BC Liberals have given (a) $1 billion (dollar) tax cut to the top 2% and she has taken money from your pocket by increasing MSP, increasing hydro and (increasing ICBC).

And they continue to claim that the taxes are the lowest in the country but this is not true. We are going to make life more affordable for people. We are going to decrease the tax for small business people. We are going to freeze BC Hydro rates. We are going to not approve the 42% ICBC rate increase that the Liberal party (will do) if they win. We’re going to stop that as well.

On the issue of First-past-the-post or some form of proportional voting: where do you stand and why?

Jagrup Brar, NDP:

In the past I know, referendum on this issue didn’t go through. At this point in time we have the first past the post system in the province of British Columbia and that’s the system we are moving forward with. I don’t think there’s any other proposal put forward at this time provincially and that’s what we’re going to live with and that’s with the system in B.C.

Peter Fassbender, Liberal:

I think electoral reform is something that we always want to be looking at. We’ve talked a lot about the voting age for young people and reviewing that and perhaps engaging more young people but I am a firm believer are in the current system of first past the post. I think it gives everyone an equal right to cast their ballots in their constituencies for the candidate that they support and I think the majority rules and whether that is by one vote or by 10,000 votes the people have their say and it’s the system that has served us well.

Tim Binnema, BC Green:

Of course we all know that in the last election the majority of the elected MLA’s were elected by not more than 25% of the total votes that could have been cast. It was nothing like a majority of voters that actually dissipated and voted for the people that are standing up in government so definitely Green Government is going to be for proportional representation. We’re also going to reduce the minimum voting age to 16 because we want to get youth engaged as soon as possible we think that’s important.  The other thing that we think is important is that we get rid of this two-party system where you have two parties that spend all their time talking about what they’re not. They’re not talking so much about their positive platform. The Green party advocates for proportional representation and we need it now.

What do you see is the future of energy sources in BC and how will your vision be financed?

Peter Fassbender, Liberal:

Well clearly, we need to continue to find alternative sources of energy and we have been investing in wind (and) solar (power) and promoting those industries through technology. We have also made a huge investment in building Site C, which will be the cleanest and most efficient source of renewable energy in the province of British Columbia. I’ll take you back to Bill Bennett’s days. Today we thank Bill Bennett and his government for their foresight to build the Bennett dam and I know future generations are going to think the BC Liberal government for having the fortitude and the foresight and the vision to build Site C.

We are also working on reducing energy. BC Hydro has many incentive programs to help industry reduce their energy consumption as well as consumers. So conservation is again one of the greatest sources for the future

Tim Binnema, BC Green:

It’s important that we think about the real cost of Site C. There have been a number of studies that have come out that have showed how unaffordable it is and how uneconomical. It is a fact that it’s much cheaper to produce power through wind solar and other means than Site C. These products can be brought on demand, as required. Right now we know there is no demand for Site C power. We’re going to sell it at a loss. We advocate for local power closer to the point of demand. It will also help first Nations people because of these projects can be closer to their home bases. Of course the Green party is going to invest (in projects) to help stimulate this industry and to help people collaborate in important ways so that they can grow and become an important part of the BC economy

Jagrup Brar, NDP:

Whatever we do it has to make sense for the people of British Columbia. The biggest question (is) about the regulation, I just want to point out that one of the regulations removed by the Liberals is to have no license for the recovery house(s). That is the insane. Requirements they removed and that (now) we see in every neighbourhood, recovery houses. That’s not how you eliminate regulations.

When it comes to energy, I agree with him (Gary Begg) about Site C. They say it’s the cleanest energy but study after study shows that the energy (is unneeded). BC don’t need that. The consumption of energy is going down every year by 1% so it’s about time there be a real plan to have clean energy. The clean energy that the BC Liberals talks about is not a clean one.

Conclusions:

Peter Fassbender, BC Liberal:

All of you in this room know that I have served this region for over 17 years in various elected offices. I ran in 2013 for the BC Liberals for a couple of very profound reasons. Number 1, we have a vision for the future. Not a hope for the future but a deliverable vision for the future that is going to deliver transportation, healthcare, mental health support, and quality of education. We have the best outcomes in the world when it comes to education. We always talk about the concerns about portables but it is the teaching that goes on, and I take my hats off to the teachers of this province who work every day to deliver that but they have the support of the provincial government, they have the cooperation of the provincial government to get there. We need to continue to invest, absolutely transportation builds communities. It provides people the access to get to university. For students to get to dental and health appointments. For seniors. We’re going to invest and continue to invest in transportation. I ask you to look at the platforms and the affordability as taxpayers. I am Peter Fassbender (and) I welcome your support on May 9.

Jagrup Brar – BC NDP:

I think this election is very important for the people of Surrey. I think first and foremost, that you have to get the politician and that it must pass from this end. If you look at the last election, the problems were big for three mega LNG projects, 100 million dollar revenue out of that, 100,000 jobs. What happened?  0 project, zero dollar revenue, and zero jobs out of that. The debt in BC, under Christie Clark and the BC Liberals has gone from 45 billion dollars to 71 billion dollars and yet they’re still claiming a balanced budget. In Surrey the situation is this, wherever I look, we see a crisis. We see a public education crisis, 7000 kids in portables under (the) BC liberals. We see public safety crisis, 53 shootings last year, and one shooting per week. That’s the public safety record.   We have healthcare crisis. Seven or eight hours wait time to enter the hospital.   We have an affordability crisis; nobody can own the house anymore particularly the second generation. That is a crisis that is all under their economy. The economy is not working for them; it is only working for the top 2%. And yet Christy Clark decides that she’s going to give $1 billion tax cut to the top 2%. We will stop that and we will make your life more affordable.

Tim Binnema, BC Green:

Some of the political leaders in BC stake a claim that their party is a party of yes. In the difficult choices the governments make in balancing competing needs means (that) getting to yes also results in saying no somewhere else. So if we want to elect a government that says yes, we need to elect a party that is in the know.

The Green party knows that the vehicle traffic can be managed more cheaply than the expense of Massey tunnel replacement project so we say yes to the Mayors plan and we say yes to creating sustainable funding for the mayor for transit.

The Green party knows that everyone deserves to have a place to call home and a way to make a fair wage and so we say yes to a fair wage commission and we say yes to poverty reduction and we say yes to bold measures to improve housing  affordability. Green probably knows that in a world where countries are becoming increasingly protectionist and the ability to grow our own food is paramount, we say yes to the enhancement (and) the protection of the ALR. We say yes to fund strategic investments required to enhance the long-term viability of our agricultural sector. I’m proud to run as a candidate for the BC Green party. The party of no and yes. I’m asking the residence of Fleetwood to vote for me, Tim Binnema.

 

Surrey South

Stephanie Cadieux, Liberal – Surrey South

Jonathan Sulveira, NDP – Surrey South

Canadian softwood lumber exports just got hit with up to 24% tariff by the U.S. What can BC do?

Jonathan Sulveira, NDP:

So basically we are going to have to build a lot of affordable housing. We are going to work with our developers in our community. We do have to use BC wood products a little bit better. We can’t just ship them very cheaply so we must use our wood for building materials, (and) likewise revitalize the wood industry. We definitely have to negotiate with the United States as fast as possible.  This government has failed to do so and now we have a US president that wants to punish Canadians and British Columbians. We have to change that.

Stephanie Cadieux, Liberal:

Our forestry industry is important in British Columbia. It built British Columbia and we’re committed to fighting for it. We’ve seen jobs increased by over 9000 jobs in the last number of years. That’s positive. We’ve expanded our trade so that we’re not dependent entirely on the US. The softwood lumber arrangement does need to be resolved with the United States, (as) it is still a major trading partner. We have a special envoy, David Emerson in Washington to work on our behalf with the federal government to come to an agreement and in the meantime, the premier has committed that if we are reelected, she will initiate trade missions to Asian countries immediately after election to continue to build export markets for our wood products.

What are your thoughts regarding Surrey’s agriculture industry sector?

Jonathan Sulveira, NDP:

We definitely have to support our agriculture. We depend on it. We have to make sure that we don’t lose agricultural land for development. We have plenty of Land in Surrey. I think we have to work with our developers to make sure that we make more affordable housing and put people in it but we have to protect our environment and our agricultural land.

Stephanie Cadieux, Liberal:

Well, we have to eat so agriculture remains one of the most important areas of industry. In Surrey, we have a vibrant agricultural sector. (In) my riding in particular, there are farms as far as the eye can see. We have grown agriculture in this province. Our exports are now the highest they’ve ever been and we have to protect the farmland to make sure that agricultural land is there for generations to come. We (need to) have strength and support and funding for the agricultural land commission and to regulate the ALR to ensure that that land stays in farming and stays farmable. At the same time, (we need to) allow for reasonable and modernizing of some uses like, for example, having the ability to host a wedding on land so that we can ensure that farmers have the ability to farm the land.

How will you balance the competing demands for social (education/health) needs with transportation infrastructure projects?

Stephanie Cadieux, Liberal:

I’ve had the honour of sitting at the cabinet table now for six years and most of those years I have sat there arguing for and advocating for the social side of government. There’s an important distinction though, there’s only one taxpayer and the government only has one kind of money and that’s yours, so choices have to be made. The one difference, is the choice between social programs what you pay for year over year, every month and capital infrastructure what you pay for it once using that like a mortgage and you have that asset over time and you pay for it over time. So it is different but we do ultimately have to balance all of the needs, healthcare infrastructure, transit infrastructure and remembering that we represent the entire province and not just our own riding.

Jonathan Sulveira, NDP:

At the end of the day in this election I have probably talked to thousands of people and none of our families out there have a lot of money to spend on the services and products that small businesses have to offer. We have to make sure that families (have) some more income available to them. We start with a $10 a day daycare, that’s going to increase the labour force.  Those people are going to be paying more taxes. And we use those funds and we put it into education. We train people so that we can have the economy of tomorrow. And with that we do have to start thinking about the opening of a third hospital in Surrey and we do have to increase our infrastructure for transportation very fast. In the last municipal election we had all kinds of promises (but) we still don’t have rapid transit. Where is it? We’re going to have another municipal election next year; we have to deal with rapid transit fast.

Conclusions:

Stephanie Cadieux, Liberal:

Canada is a great place. Democracy is a great thing. And the fact that you’re here tonight and able to hear from us with all of our differing ideas about what would be best for British Columbia is a luxury many don’t have.  I’m just going to touch quickly on choice. It is about choice. And so is governing. Governing is not about making everybody happy all of the time. It’s about doing the best you can for everybody and that means making tough choices. When you make promises as a government or as a candidate, I think it’s important that you say how you’re going to pay for that because it’s important to remember that you are the taxpayer. The only taxpayers. For every $2 billion dollars or so worth of promises, all of them, worthy endeavors but for every $2 billion dollars more than we want to spend, that’s $2 billion dollars more that comes from you. That’s the equivalent of a 2% PST hike or a 20% income tax hike or a 50% corporate tax hike. So there are decisions to be made, and it’s your choice to make on May 9. I hope you choose us. The BC Liberals.

Jonathan Sulveira, NDP:

I am a businessperson; I’m a member of the Vancouver Board of Trade. I’m a member of the Surrey board of Trade. I am also a member of the Surrey White Rock Chamber of Commerce. I work with finance, more specifically mortgage finance.  I am also a realtor, with real property, and it’s getting harder and harder for young families to purchase the properties we have. I must say Mr. Fassbender; while you were Minister of Education you have failed our children. You have failed the children of Surrey. We have 7000 children in portables. We have to take them out of portables and put them into real classrooms. And I have to say as Minister of Sports you continue to fail our children. We can’t get our kids into basketball teams or any other teams so shame on you. (Part of his speech was lost due to most audience members booing and objecting).

(Moderator stopped the proceeding and asked for respect.

Jonathon continued)

Mr. Virk, I did have a chance to debate you recently. I have 40,000 technology jobs that I can’t fulfill. This is not something to be proud of. This is a statement that shows inability to plan for jobs of the future. Brenda, I must say I was a member of the board of governors at Simon Fraser University when Gordon Campbell came in with Christie Clark. First thing they did was to kill BC PAC before it could get off the ground. And they did put that building for sale at Simon Fraser University.

From Surrey Whalley

Sargy Chima, Liberal Surrey-Whalley

Bruce Ralston, NDP Surrey-Whalley

Surrey was seen as the affordable alternative to living in Vancouver – what is your plan to keep Surrey’s cost of living from exceeding average worker’s salaries?

Sargy Chima, Liberal:

You can tell that Surrey now is the Downtown core. The BC Liberal government has put in a lot of effort into growing the economy. We want to make sure that we keep bringing in small businesses into Surrey so that we can create jobs. Well paying jobs so that we can have the citizens and the renters of Surrey Whalley have those jobs and increase their income level.

Bruce Ralston, NDP:

Clearly affordability is the cornerstone of the NDP platform. Our leader, John Horgan has talked about it quite a bit. The cost of living has accelerated above most people’s wages and people are often working at temporary or part time or term appointment jobs. A couple of very specific things. One is to take the tolls off the Port Mann Bridge and the Golden Ears Bridges, secondly to eliminate MSP premiums over four years. At the end of four years there will be no MSP premiums and thirdly we freeze Hydro rates and fourthly to have a good hard look at ICBC. The BC Liberals have promised to increase the ICBC rates as much as 14% in the next year or so. So affordability is real issue here for working families in Surrey Whalley and those are some of the issues we are working on.

The Surrey Board of Trade position is that Light Rail Transit – the full 27 kilometers – is the right solution to build and connect our communities. What is your opinion?

Bruce Ralston, NDP:

Well certainly there are three transportation problems in Surrey,  one is congestion, two is public transit and the third is tolls.

NDP is dealing with the middle one here obviously.  Investment in public infrastructure such as rapid transit is really important. There are huge opportunities that have been afforded by the position that the federal Liberal government has taken on infrastructure. I know the Mayor has met with the Minister of Infrastructure and offered to work closely with them. I support that certainly. The deficit here in Surrey compared to other parts of the region is huge. It is important that we move forward with (transportation). I personally support the light rail system that’s been set out. I know there are some detractors who would prefer Skytrain but I think the planning advantages of the light rail system are immense and therefore I would support it

Sargy Chima, Liberal:

I think it’s a very good question. The BC Liberals have invested $2.2 billion into infrastructure for transportation. We have matched the federal government so we have put in one third. Public transportation is very important. I take the Skytrain every single day and I love taking it. I think the light rail is the way to go.   We have built relationships with the City of Surrey and we are going to work with them to ensure that we have proper transportation. And because we could do that we are growing the economy (so) we will have money that we can invest. This is why we are investing $2.2 billion and matching the federal government’s investment.

Disability payments and welfare payments are considered inadequate in high-cost centers such as Metro Vancouver. What is your solution for the most vulnerable members of our society?

Sargy Chima, Liberal:

Working with the federal government and Service Canada, I see a lot of clients come in and ask questions about disability benefits. (There is) two prongs to it, you can get disability through the provincial government and you can get disability through the Canada pension program.  I am not that familiar with the disability program through the provincial government but what I am willing to do is to hear the concerns and to ensure that I can be their voice, to make sure that we are providing enough benefits to so that they can meet the cost of living.

Bruce Ralston, NDP:

A society is judged by how they treat their most vulnerable members, those at the lowest end of the income stream. That certainly applies to those receiving disability payments and welfare payments. We have committed to raising the welfare rate by $100 a month. (We will) increase the amount of earned exemption that those receiving welfare would be entitled to receive on disability rates. The most egregious and outrageous neglect of the BC Liberals. Has been for those receiving WCB payments. In my constituency office at the Dell Shopping Centre, I regularly encounter people who are left destitute and desperate by the treatment they have received from WCB. It’s time for a major reform of the payments and the training those people do not receive. It’s really outrageous.

Conclusions:

Sargy Chima, Liberal:

I am very proud to be a third generation Canadian. (I live) in the most beautiful city in British Columbia. Furthermore I’m proud to be living in Surrey Whalley. I live in Surrey Whalley where the BC Liberal government has grown a strong economy. They made sure that we have universities in my riding; technical universities, SFU, Innovation Blvd and we have KPU coming in.   My grandfather journeyed long and hard to come to Canada in 1908.  He walked from Bellingham to Canada. It took him 24 hours to get here. He came here because he wanted a better life for his family and his siblings. My father came here in 1954 because he wanted to make a better life for his family and his siblings. Today I want to make a better life for all British Columbians. So I want you guys to think about the work that the BC liberal government has done in creating jobs (and) building a future for our children and doing the right thing for the people we love. Go out on May 9 and vote for the BC Liberals. Thank you

Bruce Ralston – NDP:

That is the community where I have lived for the last 27 years. All of my three children were born in Surrey Memorial Hospital and I’m very proud of the community of Surrey Whalley. Not every one is doing well in our community or in our city. I believe the Surrey Board of Trade has pointed out, for example, that many people suffer a deficit of childcare and they advocate for a $10 a day child-care program. So there are three real issues that our leader, John Horgan has committed to in the fundamental commitments that he has made. One is affordability. You’ve heard Jagrup Brar talk about that. (He mentioned) all the instances where we will make life more affordable for people in Surrey. The second is to restore the  services that over 16 years have been neglected by the BC Liberal government. When you hear stories about people like Karen Reed Sidhu, (who) waited in the emergency for seven hours and then being shunted off to the hospital corridor when she was suffering from internal hemorrhage. That’s a very serious concern and so that has to be addressed. And finally, to build a prosperous economy of good jobs, not temporary part-time jobs for everyone. So there are certain opportunities but in my riding and I think they are great opportunities in the province.

From Surrey White Rock

Niovi Patsicakis NDP – Surrey White Rock

What are your thoughts on protecting Surrey from rising sea levels and potential floods?

Niovi Patsicakis, NDP:

I have no idea. I have not thought about rising sea levels. What I do know is that in White rock a lot of our citizens are concerned about the trains that are coming through and we do see that the sea levels rise and often there’s flooding. We had a huge flooding that took place a while back. We have asked the government before to look into what types of chemicals are on those trains and what is the danger of having them go through and for many years White Rock was ignored. I will find out more. I think it’s very important to deal with that.

ICBC and BC Hydro rates are a concern to citizens, impacting their living costs. What are your thoughts about the future of these agencies?

Niovi Patsicakis, NDP:

I think it’s important to control the amount of money that people are being charged and what the NDP will do is put a freeze for now on both the Hydro rates and the I CBC and have a look at why these companies are not putting back profits into our pockets instead the money, the dividends that we have. From these companies go back to the government and then the government decides what to do with it and it’s our money and it should be making life more affordable for us so we will make sure that those rates stay frozen until we find out what’s going on.

Fraser Valley Realtors are concerned about the public health and safety risks from grow-ops and drug labs in residential homes. With the pending legalization of marijuana in 2018, how would you ensure that people can access the appropriate information on these homes prior to moving into them?

Niovi Patsicakis, NDP:

Wow I wish I was in government I’d be able to give you a better answer I think that it’s very important that any one that grows marijuana is regulated and I personally would not want to buy a home that was used for an operation as such. I’m not sure how you would go about that it has to be fair for everyone so I think regulation has to be important

Conclusions:

Niovi Patsicakis

I’m here today and I’m running not because I was a teacher who worked for 16 years and struggled to help children learn. I knew I could’ve done better but I could not because my class went up from 12 children to over 60 children. I am here today because I hear on the doorstep that people are suffering. They’re not getting the help they need at the right time and there are long waits. I’m running with the NDP because they are committed to making life more affordable and because we have a plan and we have a vision even though you’ve heard otherwise. The plan is threefold and Bruce just went through it. And in order for us to move forward and create good steady jobs were going to take the initiative to create 96,000 jobs. We are going to build schools. We are going to build hospitals; roads, rapid transit and we are going to move the province forward. We are going to cancel Christy Clark’s tax cuts to the top 2%. So I urge you to vote for John Horgan and the NDP.

Other than the personal attacks and hostility at the end, it was a good and respectful exchange of ideas. The audience was pleased with the outcome and all of the candidates had a chance to express the things they were passionate about.


For more information on the platforms of each party see the following links

BC NDP

BC LIBERALS

BC GREEN

Whoever you choose, be sure to vote on May 9th. Make your voice heard.

Don’t forget, your voice doesn’t stop being necessary because voting day is over. Contact your representative regularly. Voice your concerns. Express your gratitude and support those who are brave enough to take up public office.  Hold your representative accountable for his or her promises, decorum and community involvement.  It takes a community to grow a good politician.

For information on voting

To find out where to vote

About The Author

Shara Nixon

Shara Nixon loves to hear and repeat the stories of people’s lives and cultural viewpoints. She enjoys deep conversations and people who hold strong viewpoints. In her day job she is a social worker for business owners, helping them meet their goals. As an insomniac, she writes at night to clear her head. She is punctuationally challenged and uses too many !!!. She also believes in creative spelling as an art form. Her super-power is in connecting like-minded people and communicating with an intent to learn instead of respond. She writes about relationships, business savvy, online dating, finance and general things that piss her off. Shara believes that key to peace is education and connection!!!

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