Moderator Frank Bucholtz made it clear an audience member’s question at the conclusion of Tuesday’s all-candidates meeting at Crescent United Church didn’t require an answer.
But it was audibly appreciated by an audience who had spent two hours listening to South Surrey-White Rock federal candidates Larry Colero (Green Party), Pixie Hobby (NDP) and Judy Higginbotham (Liberal) give their views on climate change and end-of-life choices.
“Will the three of you get together to pick only one to run in this election?” he asked, to general laughter and applause.
The more than 200 people attending the forum, organized by the South Fraser Unitarian Congregation and Crescent United, heard more agreement than debate among candidates.
While they differed on for whom voters should cast their ballots, they were unified in their belief that the route to what they see as necessary change in Canada is the removal of Prime Minister Stephen Harper from the helm.
“This isn’t much of a debate is it?” Colero quipped at one point, going on later to say he was unsure whether to call the other candidates “colleagues,” “opponents” or “friends”.
Conservative candidate Dianne Watts and Libertarian Bonnie Hu did not attend the meeting, which did, however, receive a brief visit from just-announced Progressive Canadian Party candidate Brian Marlatt, who read a statement in which he, too, left no doubt that his party seeks change in Ottawa.
Colero told the audience in introductory remarks that while the Green Party is focused on environmental issues such as opposing the Kinder Morgan pipeline and the shipping of “oily sludge” along B.C.’s coast and the transportation of thermal coal through communities, it is also committed to “never have a party whip, and never insist that MPs vote a certain way.”
Later, noting that the Green Party has been accused of being a “one issue party” – Colero said the party’s one overriding issue was “returning democracy to Canada.”
The other candidates were also not slow to take shots at the Conservative government.
Higginbotham said the Conservatives had “forgotten” the importance of climate change.
In discussing the need for investment in infrastructure to improve transportation and remove gridlock, she said that a Liberal government will not only invest millions in building transportation corridors, but will also improve communication between Ottawa and communities like South Surrey-White Rock.
Hobby said the NDP will end the “subsidies Harper has been giving to the fossil fuel industry” in favour of investing money in stimulating a green economy, adding that the NDP is proposing to deliver $1.3 billion “directly to municipalities for transportation.”
In other discussion, the three candidates on the dais spoke almost as one on the need for environmental protection and investing in innovation and the development of green technologies both locally and globally.
Hobby said the challenges of protecting the environment should be seen as “an opportunity to review our economic stance” and find new and better ways of doing business.
“We don’t have to choose between a strong economy and a clean environment,” she said. “The two go hand in hand.”
All three candidates expressed support for the Supreme Court decision to allow individuals to choose physician-assisted suicide in cases where pain and suffering are intolerable and the wishes of a competent terminally ill patient have been made clear.