(counterclockwise from top-left) Candidates for Delta North Jet Sunner (BC Liberals) Neema Manral (BC Greens) and Ravi Kahlon (BC NDP) take part in a virtual all-candidates meeting hosted by Delta Residents Association director Christina Shyong on Saturday, Oct. 17, 2020. (Delta Residents Association/YouTube.com screenshot)

(counterclockwise from top-left) Candidates for Delta North Jet Sunner (BC Liberals) Neema Manral (BC Greens) and Ravi Kahlon (BC NDP) take part in a virtual all-candidates meeting hosted by Delta Residents Association director Christina Shyong on Saturday, Oct. 17, 2020. (Delta Residents Association/YouTube.com screenshot)

Health care, taxes, education discussed at final Delta North all-candidates meeting

Virtual meeting hosted by the Delta Residents Association on Oct. 17

Voters in North Delta got another chance to hear what candidates running in Delta North had to say this past weekend as the Delta Resident’s Association hosted the third and final all-candidates meeting in the riding.

The 40-minute virtual meeting Saturday afternoon (Oct. 17) was not streamed live but was made available to view on YouTube later that evening.

(Scroll to the bottom of this story to watch the full video.)

The meeting was the first to have all three candidates participate. After opening remarks, Jet Sunner (BC Liberal Party), Neema Manral (BC Green Party) and Ravi Kahlon (BC NDP) took turns giving answers to a half-dozen questions submitted by Delta residents. Each candidate was given two minutes per question to speak.

First, the candidates where asked what immediate solutions their parties had for the thousands of B.C. residents living without a family doctor.

Sunner spoke first, saying the Liberals want to be able to train the health workforce of the future, including family doctors, and nurses and other health-care workers, and is looking at expanding opportunities for international graduates in health-care professions to work in B.C.

“If we can also try to attract them to work in under-serviced areas, like some of the smaller towns, this is something that we are looking at in the platform,” he said.

Sunner added the party would work with BC Ambulance Service on providing faster response times, and would continue working with Provincial Health Officer Dr. Bonnie Henny to “[make] sure that we put your interests first.”

Manral spoke next, touting the Greens’ commitment to spend $1-billion over four years to support mental health care, linking it to the effect the pandemic has had on people’s mental states.

“This is really needed [at] this time because during the pandemic, people are upset, they are sick. And my children at home, they are always asking me, like, how come we can’t play with friends, we cannot go outside? It’s affecting their mental health. We need the mental health in place right now to help people.”

Kahlon pointed to his party’s pledge to start a second medical school at SFU’s Surrey campus, build a second hospital in Surrey, and hire 7,000 new health-care workers. Kahlon said the latter would focus on training and hiring women who have been displaced from the tourism sector “so that we can have more supports in our senior care homes, where we know we have serious challenges.”

He also highlighted two new primary care clinics the NDP government opened in Surrey which have doctors, nurse practitioners and mental health support services, “all the things you would need so that you can go there if you don’t have a family physician to get the support you need.”

RELATED: Get to know the candidates for Delta North

Candidates were next asked to speak to their party’s solution to manage ICBC’s deficit and inefficiencies, as well as their feelings about privatized insurance and whether their party will reduce the cost of car insurance.

Manral spoke about the need to reduce ICBC premiums but said she did not support privatizing car insurance in B.C.

“Private sectors are working for the private interest, they work for the profit,” she said. “So I feel we have to trust in ICBC, build trust with the government and ICBC, and we have to continue with ICBC.”

Kahlon agreed with many of Manral’s points, adding the privatization model suggested by the BC Liberals “is not the right way to go” as it’s modeled off of Ontario, which has the highest insurance rates in the country.

“We were left with a $1.2 billion debt that the previous government spent and left [ICBC] in a big hole,” he said.

“We’ve made major reforms … and we know that those reforms, by taking out a lot of the money which was spent on legal fees, will go back [into] people’s pockets and significantly lower their rates 25 to 35 per cent.”

Sunner countered that under the NDP rates have “skyrocketed” from an average of $1,300 to $2,000.

“If you have a kid that’s driving, you’re paying hundreds of dollars extra,”he said. “This is unacceptable.”

“What we’re asking is that people are given a choice, so you can go with ICBC or you’ll go with the private company. That’s what we want to be able to do, give people a choice so their rates aren’t out of control.”

Candidates were then asked what solutions and opportunities they propose or support towards addressing racism and creating a more inclusive and diverse community.

Kahlon spoke of his role in restoring the BC Human Rights Commission and helping build a grassroots network to aid communities in addressing racism before moving on to his party’s platform commitments to look at the Police Act and bring in race-based data collection.

“I’m passionate about this. I’ve spent my brief time in government working on this file,” he said. “[I] also did a lot of inclusion work in the community, inviting leaders in our community and students and young people to learn about our Indigenous community. I’ve done a lot of work with the Japanese community to recognize the historical landmarks in North Delta and the injustices they faced. So I’m passionate about this issue and I think our record speaks for itself.”

Sunner began by stating the BC Liberal party has zero tolerance towards racism, backing that up with his personal feelings along the same lines.

“I have two little girls and a boy, and I want them all to have that equal opportunity. This is what I teach at home; I teach them to love and respect everyone despite their race, religion, sex, anything, even differences in the way they look. I try to encourage my kids to make sure that they are able to be friends with kids that are left out there in the playground by themselves,” he said. “This is what I believe that the BC Liberals will teach.”

Sunner then spoke about some of party’s platform promises, including that all government services be free of racism and prejudice, that the Single Parent Employment Initiative be extended, and that it will support pay equity and salary transparency by creating the Equal Pay Act.

Manral spoke to the need to foster diversity and multiculturalism in children when they are young, leading to her party’s promise to provide free childcare and role it into the public school system.

“[When] they grow [up] with the diversity, they grow up with the multiculturalism … there is less chance of racism,” Manral said.

“If [childcare is] connected with the public schools, then we can foster more diversity in the kids, and we can take care of their physical growth, mental growth, emotional growth,” she continued. “This is really important to foster these thing [at an] early age.”

RELATED: Racism, policing discussed at Delta North all-candidates meeting

Next, the candidates were asked if it benefits British Columbians for the government to have a snap election with just over a month to voting day.

Sunner was unequivocal in his condemnation of the NDP’s decision to call the election a year ahead of schedule.

“That was a very selfish move,” he said.

Sunner pointed to the rising number of COVID-19 cases, including seven deaths associated with an outbreak at Delta Hospital and exposures in schools in Delta and Surrey, saying the public is worried for their safety before criticizing the government’s back-to-school plan and the differing options district to district for kids to learn from home.

“That’s something that we could have looked at, to have a consistent model. They could have spent the next six months to a year doing that. Instead, they’re spending a lot of money on an election.”

He then went on to mention the NDP’s cancellation of the 10-lane bridge to replace the George Massey Tunnel followed by a list of other priorities the NDP could have been focused on had they not called the election.

Manral spoke of the need to put the needs of people first, saying we “have keep that care and love and affection for the people first, power after.”

She said this is the time to focus on increasing medical and mental health care, and rent and food subsidies, rather than re-election, saying it’s putting people’s lives at risk.

Kahlon defended his party’s decision to call the election, saying it was the right time to ask the public what they want to focus on for the next four years.

Kahlon pointed to elections that are or have been held recently elsewhere in Canada and around the world as evidence it can be done safely, saying Elections BC has run things “very smoothly.” He further stated that had they waited the election would have still happened under the cloud of the pandemic.

“We’re going to be living through COVID now for at least three, four years. This election would have happened during COVID no matter what. And so now, while the cases are low, it’s the good time to do so,” he said.

Kahlon called the Liberals hypocritical for telling voters it’s safe to hold an election right now but still campaigning door-to-door.

“What I think is dangerous for the public is candidates knocking on doors. We were asked to stay in bubbles. Our campaign is not knocking on doors, we’re not exposing our volunteers to people’s homes. But I know certainly the BC Liberals and Jet’s team are knocking on doors, so if they’re really worried about safety, they wouldn’t be doing that.”

SEE ALSO: COVID-19 surge in B.C. fuelled by spikes in new cases in Fraser Valley & Surrey area

Candidates were then asked for their positions on eliminating the PST.

Manral said cutting taxes means reducing the services at at time when we need more of them.

She went on to say she is not in favour of putting the government into deficit and passing that debt onto future generations in order to cut taxes and maintain service levels.

Kahlon said most middle income families are already not paying the PST on the critical things that they buy, such as groceries, school supplies, phone bills or heat bills. Rather, he said, cutting the PST would overwhelmingly benefit the wealthy, before citing past Liberal governments’ tax cuts and subsequent cuts to services.

“They fired 7,000 care home workers that were working with our seniors — the prices for that we’re still paying for today. And I know, I lived through it because my mom was one of those people,” he said. “I don’t think that cutting the taxes and then having no plan of what you’re gonna do after is prudent. It’s not good for the economy. It’s not good for anyone.”

Sunner pointed to the 23 new taxes introduced by the NDP government, saying they cost an average family around $4,700.

He said cutting the PST will help businesses and in turn help get people back working. Further, he said, the money people will save from not having to pay the PST will be money they can spend, further stimulating the B.C. economy.

“You’re not be able to support any programs if we don’t have that working base and we’re not helping them,” he said.

Finally, candidates were asked what their parties will do to reduce the cost of post secondary education.

Kahlon said his party has been creating new post-secondary spaces, pointing to the NDP’s commitment to creating 2,000 new tech-related spaces, and has reduced interest rates on student loans. Further, he pointed to a switch to up-front student-based grants (rather than the grants being handed out after students had already accumulated debt), the NDP government increasing funding for post-secondary education and providing funding for on-campus student housing at BCIT, UBC, SFU and others.

“That is going to be our path to get out of COVID. We need more people trained,” Kahlon said. “The economy is changing and post-secondary education is critical and something that I’m very proud of, that we were able to make significant investments in.”

Sunner, after saying the had NDP failed to meet the needs of students, said a Liberal government would build new high schools through B.C., and upgrade existing K to 12 facilities. Further, he said the party is “looking at” adult learning, creating a work experience/co-op program for students, expanding secondary school trade programs, and apprenticeship training province-wide.

He also stressed the need to focus on children at the elementary school level “when they’re impressionable.”

“If we can get back into not only preparing them for the future but also for their safety — things like drugs, that type of stuff — we need to bring that education back in, which the NDP has kind of given up on,” Sunner said.

Manral accused the Liberals of doing nothing for schools during their 16 years in power, and leveling similar criticism of the NDP’s three and a half years forming government.

She said the Green Party wants to increase the number of schools and qualified teachers in the province, adding she and the party “want to change the whole school system.”

She went on to say that post-secondary students should not have to spend half their time working in order to afford school, and should instead be able to focus on their studies. To that end, she said the Greens would double student grants and increase education funding.

General voting happens on Saturday, Oct. 24 from 8 a.m to 8 p.m. Visit elections.bc.ca/voting/where-to-vote for up-to-date information about where and how to cast your ballot.


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