When it comes to the May 2 federal election, Communist party candidate Sam Hammond holds no illusions of coming away with the Newton-North Delta seat.
“I always try to be credible with the media,” Hammond laughed, when asked if he thought he might win.
“It won’t be a tough race for me. I’m there to inject program into the debate and use the election to as a vehicle to put our program out.”
When it comes time to vote, Hammond said the real race will be between Liberal incumbent Sukh Dhaliwal and NDP candidate Jinny Sims.
Sims is “a strong candidate and an able one,” Hammond said. “I think she poses a real threat to the Liberals.”
Dhaliwal has held the riding since 2006, taking it for the second time in 2008 with 36.4 per cent of the vote – 2,493 more than runner-up Conservative Sandeep Pandher.
This year, Dhaliwal is one of six candidates vying to represent Newton-North Delta constituents. In addition to Sims and Hammond, his contenders are Mani Fallon (Conservative), Liz Walker (Green) and Ravi Gill (Independent).
For Sims, this election is her first crack at seeking political office.
But the former B.C. Teachers’ Federation president is no stranger to fighting for a cause. And she has no doubt as to the issues that are top-of-mind for voters in the riding.
“What I’m hearing more and more, it’s about families being (able to) afford to live a decent life… and be able to look after their children and their seniors.”
Factors affecting that include the Harmonized Sales Tax and fees for post-secondary education, Sims said.
“Investment in youth seems to be really huge in this community,” she said, noting health care is also a key issue for constituents – including concerns with wait lists and a lack of services.
Sims described her campaign as “issue-based,” and said she will win the riding “only if the residents in this riding believe that I can represent them in Ottawa.”
“Delta-Newton citizens are looking for a voice that will actually take their concerns to Ottawa,” she said.
“The consistent tone seems to be, ‘are they not hearing us?’ ” she said.
For Walker, who won 5.6 per cent of the vote in 2008, the top two issues are the concentration of correctional services in the Newton area, and the South Fraser Perimeter Road in North Delta.
The latter needs another environmental assessment, Walker said, citing changes to the original plan she says will lead to increased congestion and air pollution.
As for concentration of services, she pointed to a lack of community consultation on a decision to locate federal parole offices in Newton. It will only add to “numerous” issues that exist as a result of the concentration of social and correctional services, she said.
“To get a federal parole office in the same area, in an area where we’ve already got services for troubled youth… troubles me,” Walker said. “I’m disappointed that nobody came to contact us in this part of Newton. I’m disappointed a federal representative – who apparently the parole office did contact – didn’t see fit to connect with the community here to engage us before it got to the 11th hour.”
Walker pledged to be better-connected with constituents on issues should she win the riding. But, like Hammond, she is not holding her breath that she’ll actually succeed at the polls.
However – unlike constituents in Fleetwood-Port Kells, whose Green candidate resigned last week over a controversial Facebook comment – at least those who want to vote Green will have that opportunity, she said.
“It’s pretty hard to fight the machinery that other parties have,” Walker said. “At least we have representation for the people that want to make a Green vote.”
At the same time, Green candidates on the ballots build the party’s credibility, she said.
In contrast, Gill – running for office for the first time – is confident he has a good shot at winning the Newton-North Delta seat.
“The people… need to see the power of an independent MP,” he said. “If I say something today, I will stand by it today and I will stand by it tomorrow. I will not change my grounds or my principles.”
Gill said the riding’s top issues are health care and schools.
Regarding health care, Gill said more doctors and expanded facilities are needed to address waits for services. If elected, Gill said he would petition for more funding to address the issue.
Federal assistance is also needed to address the issue of aging and overcrowded schools, Gill said. The use of portables “tends to dwindle the mind of a child,” he said.
Gill said the solution is to build more schools, a move he said would also create jobs and stimulate the economy. But for that, federal assistance is needed.
“I’ll do everything I can to get everything for the people, fairly,” he said. “The people are my boss. What they need, I will strive to the nail to get for them.”
For the Tories’ Fallon, the riding’s top issues are lower taxes and a strong economy.
Constituents “want to make sure they’ve got jobs and their children have jobs,” she said. “That families are able to spend their own money versus the government spending it for them.”
She noted many people she has spoken with while campaigning are not pleased an election was called – it’s a feeling she can relate to.
“It seems silly to go into an election when the economy should be a number-one concern,” Fallon said. “The $350 million could’ve been better-spent.”
Fallon said she decided to throw her hat in the ring because she was tired of “sitting around watching what wasn’t being done enough.” Like Gill, she is confident her odds of winning the riding are high.
“I think people want to see a fresh face,” she said. “They want their riding represented in Parliament.”
While Dhaliwal said he isn’t taking his fourth run at office for granted, he believes his history in the community will serve him well.
“The people see me as their neighbour first,” he said. “I’m working hard, trying to earn their trust.”
Dhaliwal agreed with Gill and Sims that health care is a top issue in the riding; namely, universal access. It’s something citizens are concerned they will lose under a Conservative government, he said.
“That is what they’re worried about – if they get the majority government, they might abolish that,” he said, noting he has seen no commitment from the Conservatives to renew a health accord that was signed by the Liberal government with the provinces in 2004. It is up for renewal in 2014 and “they haven’t met with the provincial health minister yet,” Dhaliwal said.
“I personally see that our first priority is to a new health accord.”
Second to health is the economy, Dhaliwal said. There is a need to invest in jobs, reduce “wasteful” spending and bring down the deficit, he said.
Whatever the result may be next month, Hammond – who is current leader of the B.C. Communist Party – said the key issues are ones both media and politicians alike are ignoring: foreign and domestic policy.
He cited money being spent by the Conservative government on other countries’ wars, as well as the millions of dollars that have been committed to new fighter jets.
With those funds “we could have post-secondary education and cure everything that’s lacking in our health care,” Hammond said.
Taking back ownership and control of Canadian resources and ecology – much of which is now exclusively in foreign hands – is an important piece of the picture, he said.
Solutions from his party’s perspective lie in economic and social transformation, Hammond said.