Candidates from each of Surrey's federal ridings were part of an all-candidates meeting Thursday hosted by the Surrey Board of Trade and Fraser Valley Real Estate Board.

ELECTION 2015: Candidates tackle issues at business forum

Political hopefuls from each of Surrey's federal ridings sound off at all-candidates meeting Thursday night.

Patrick Carpentier sat in an all-candidates meeting Thursday night with a slightly bemused look on his face.

A resident in the riding of Surrey-Centre, he said he’s leaning toward voting NDP, but has his mind open should anyone at the meeting win him over.

He’s skeptical that will happen.

The event was held in front of a crowd of about 200 at Eaglequest Golf Course at 7778 152 St.

The event, hosted by the Surrey Board of Trade (SBOT) and the Fraser Valley Real Estate Board, largely attracted business groups, along with a healthy sampling of different party followers.

Each Surrey riding was represented and candidates from most of the parties attended.

Individual ridings were asked questions drawn randomly, and each candidate had one minute to answer.

Prior to the event, SBOT CEO Anita Huberman said she would keep her ears tuned to various issues, including social needs, child care and poverty. She was also listening closely for ideas around infrastructure, transportation and health.

Newton candidates were asked what they would do about crime prevention.

First up, Green candidate Pamela Sangha said guns and gang violence need to be addressed.

Prevention at a young age, she said, is key.

“We need programs that will give them something else to do,” Sangha said.

She also wants positive role models to work with kids.

Liberal candidate Sukh Dhaliwal said the Tories have wasted too much money building jails.

He said that money has to be used for programs helping youth avoid getting involved in the criminal element.

“Target hard criminals rather than the first-time offenders,” Dhaliwal said.

He said under a Liberal government, the 100 officers requested by Surrey would be delivered “right now.”

Incumbent Surrey-Newton NDP MP Jinny Sims agreed that those police officers are needed immediately, but she favours education, early intervention and reintegration, which she says are critical to any success in reducing crime.

“Without those elements, no amount of policing is going to be enough to tackle the challenges faced by our youth,” Sims said.

Conservative candidate for Surrey-Newton Harpreet Singh said 43 of the officers requested by Surrey are already “on the road.”

He said he would be having town hall meetings to discuss issues and solutions.

Candidates for South Surrey-White Rock were asked what they would do about skills training to support job opportunities specific to the immigration population.

Conservative Dianne Watts said there are several programs underway.

“So we have a vast opportunity, because we have people we can put to work that have the skills that we need,” Watts said. “The Conservative government has done numerous things in terms of the programs and funding to all of these programs.”

Green candidate Larry Colero said training has to be geared to a new economy, which will include clean industry.

He said it’s important to look at the skills immigrants come with and “leveraging” those in the best way possible.

Liberal Judy Higginbotham said skills training is “absolutely imperative” to the future of Canada.

Temporary foreign workers should be assisted to get the skills they need to advance training where possible.

“What better citizens could we have than the ones that come over here to work, and help make our country just a little bit better,” Higginbotham said.

The NDP’s Pixie Hobby said skills training is “absolutely crucial.”

She said equally important are the skills immigrants bring to the country.

To that end, the NDP would restore the Foreign Credit Credential Program.

She also said the NDP would initiate a grant program for professional bodies to standardize credential recognition.

Surrey-Centre candidates were asked what they would do to increase business between Surrey and abroad.

Incumbent NDP MP Jasbir Sandhu said “we need to set up support offices in other countries to direct trade here.”

The NDP is in favour of free trade agreements that benefit both countries that sign on to it, he said.

Conservative Sucha Thind said by lowering taxes, the government is investing in businesses so they can grow.

Liberal Randeep Sarai said two out of three jobs in this country are fuelled by exports, so the port needs to be expanded, as do embassies abroad.

The candidates were also allowed to select one representative from their parties to offer closing remarked.

At the end, the bemused look on Surrey-Centre resident Carpentier’s face turned to one of bewilderment.

Asked if he heard anything to change him mind about how he’s voting, he said “absolutely nothing.”

Huberman said the responses were what she expected.

“I think I heard about transportation, I heard about crime, emergency planning, all the things that are important to Surrey,” Huberman said. Asked if it changed her mind about how she might vote, she simply shook her head.

 

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