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RIDING PROFILE: Fleetwood-Port Kells

Crime, economy and health care key concerns, candidates say
Candidates running in the riding of Fleetwood-Port Kells include Nao Fernando (NDP)

Conservative Nina Grewal took the new riding of Fleetwood-Port Kells in 2004 and hasn’t given it up since.

Grewal has handily won all three elections in the riding, but takes nothing for granted as she heads into her fourth campaign.

“You have to run hard like you were running for the first time,” Grewal said.

The most important issue in the riding, Grewal said, is crime.

“Crime is a really big issue in this riding and I believe crime remains a number-one priority in this community,” Grewal said.

She said the Conservatives have run the most comprehensive tough-on-crime agenda out of any of the federal parties. It’s become harder for people who would carry guns, race their cars or become involved in violent crime, Grewal said, adding the Tories also increased the age of sexual consent.

The second most important issue in the riding, she said, is the economy.

“We are going through a tough economic downturn,” Grewal said. “But as compared to the rest of the world, under Prime Minister Stephen Harper’s leadership, we have weathered the worst economic recession –  better than other G8 nations.”

She points to almost six quarters of economic growth as examples of how this country is faring compared to the rest of the world.

“We’ve created almost half-a-million new jobs since July 2009 and we have cut taxes,” she said.

Grewal is up against several people who will be trying to take her job, including Pam Dhanoa, a 22-year Surrey resident and local real estate agent, who is running with the Liberals.

Dhanoa said she’s hearing in the riding that the most important issue for people is access to higher education.

“It’s become unaffordable,” she said.

The Liberals are promising a “Learning Passport” grant of up to $6,000 per student wanting to pursue post-secondary education.

Dhanoa couldn’t say what the national cost of the program would be, but said it would be completely paid for by the elimination of corporate tax cuts being promised by the Conservatives.

“We’re going to save that money and put it in the right place,” Dhanoa said. “Those are all rich and big companies. They don’t need that kind of tax cut.”

Dhanoa, who came to Canada from India, said immigration is the number-two issue in the riding.

Of particular concern, she said, is family unification (when spouses and siblings join each other in Canada) – a process which can take up to 13 to 14 years.

The Liberals, Dhanoa said, would shorten that time to two or three years.

She also noted people are having a difficult time obtaining visas here, saying the Grits would also expedite that.

“The visas are so hard, people wanting to come and see their families, it’s getting tougher and tougher,” Dhanoa said. “We will make it easier.”

Thirdly, the health care system is in need of repair, she said, specifically noting that the cost of prescription medication is very high.

She couldn’t say how much of current prescriptions would be paid for by a Liberal government, adding she’s waiting to hear from people during her door-knocking campaign.

The Liberals will also provide Employment Insurance benefits to people caring for family members at home, she said.

The funding for all these things, said Dhanoa, would come from the money the Conservatives are planning to spend on fighter jets.

“We’re going to give it to the provincial governments, and we are going to work together,” Dhanoa said.

Nao Fernando, the NDP candidate for the riding, is back for another swipe at Grewal.

Last election, Fernando was 9,000 votes off a win, but he says this time around it will be very different.

He said Dhanoa will be coming to his aid in splitting the right-wing vote. He said polling he’s seen indicates that it’s a two-way fight between himself and Grewal.

Fernando said the most important issue in the riding is adequate representation.

Grewal, he’s hearing, is rarely seen around the riding.

“Nina’s representing the people of Fleetwood-Port Kells leaves much to be desired,” Fernando said. “I believe that I’m a better representative than Nina could ever hope to be.”

He’s also hearing that health care is upper-most on people’s minds.

Five million people in this country don’t have family doctors, which is unacceptable, said Fernando.

The NDP will hire 1,200 doctors and 6,000 nurses immediately, he said.

“There’s a huge resource of doctors who are already qualified, but they cannot practice here,” Fernando said, referring to people who have been trained overseas. He would change laws to allow people in that situation to retrain if necessary so they can get to work.

He also said the lack of public trust in the current government is a huge issue for constituents.

Too many scandals, including falsifying information to the House of Commons and altering documents, are rocking public confidence.

Fernando said he would do several things, including increasing openness and transparency in government.

That would include increasing the access under Freedom of Information laws as well as federal Access to Information legislation.

Alex  Joehl, the Libertarian candidate for the riding, wants to introduce a flat tax of 15 per cent across the country. With everyone paying that same tax, money would be saved in paperwork, allowing the lower rate.

“The administration costs would be just cut to pieces,” Joehl said. “The bureaucracy in Ottawa would be just cut up, and it would actually provide the same revenue.”

With more money in their pockets, people would spend more, giving the economy a much-needed boost.

He also wants to have federal gas levies and taxes returned to the region, where they can be spent on transit and road infrastructure.

“Right now, the money is all going to Ottawa,” Joehl said. “And Ottawa doles it back out to the provinces as they see fit.”

His third biggest issue is health care, which he believes should be completely privatized. But, he said, that’s big jump. He would change the Canada Health Act to allow for a two-tiered system. “People who want better care should be allowed to go out and get it,” he said.

The Green party had planned to have candidate Alan Sandanha run in the Fleetwood-Port Kells riding.

He resigned Wednesday after The Leader reported a controversial comment had been posted on – then removed from – his Facebook site (see story on page 5 of this issue).

Because the candidate nomination deadline for the May 2 election had already passed, Sandanha’s name will still appear on the ballot.


See related story:

Candidates to debate the issues in Surrey