Tracy Holmes photo                                 About 125 people turned out to the White Rock Community Centre Thursday evening to hear from Surrey South and Surrey-White Rock candidates.

Tracy Holmes photo About 125 people turned out to the White Rock Community Centre Thursday evening to hear from Surrey South and Surrey-White Rock candidates.

South Surrey/White Rock candidates tackle coal, parking, grizzly hunt and more

White Rock Community Centre meeting draws more than 100 people

“If I wasn’t doing a good job, the premier would have fired me.”

So responded BC Liberal Stephanie Cadieux, outgoing MLA for Surrey-Cloverdale who is now running in the new Surrey South riding, after criticism from BC NDP opponent Jonathan Silveira at last Thursday’s all-candidates forum hosted by the South Surrey &White Rock Chamber of Commerce, the Fraser Valley Real Estate Board and CARP at White Rock Community Centre.

Silveira criticized Cadieux’s work as minister of children and family development, noting high numbers of reports of sexual violence against children in the ministry’s care, saying his party wants “to do better” for children who are victimized.

Cadieux said she is proud of the work she has done the past five years as minister.

“The reality is, this is a ministry that deals with tragedy every day. This is the most heart-wrenching work I have ever done,” she said.

Cadieux and Silveira were among eight of 11 candidates in Surrey South and Surrey-White Rock ridings who addressed about 125 people who turned out to the evening meeting.

In all, 13 questions were posed, on issues ranging from the safety of homes that have been used for marijuana grow-ops and transportation options for South-of-the-Fraser residents, to charging for parking at hospitals, the grizzly bear trophy hunt, school portables and coal trains.

On the latter – which has been a hot topic in the area for years – Surrey South independents Peter Njenga and Gary Hee, in opposing coal shipments, both pointed to the U.S.’s just-announced levy on softwood lumber.

“I would suggest a 20 per cent levy for every pound (of coal), and that would pay for our hospitals,” Hee said.

Surrey-White Rock NDP candidate Niovi Patsicakis described coal trains as a federal issue, and criticized the timing of BC Liberal Leader Christy Clark’s announcement the day earlier that she had asked the federal government to ban U.S. thermal coal through B.C.

“Miss Clark has sat quiet for the last two years on the issue of coal… until guess what – it’s election time,” Patsicakis said.

Surrey South Libertarian Josh Barrett opposed a ban.

“I would like to remind the NDP that hundreds of jobs within this riding rely on coal trains,” Barrett said. “We cannot ban it.”

Surrey-White Rock BC Liberal Tracy Redies defended the premier’s timing, pointing to “sensitive negotiations” regarding softwood lumber and the desire to be “a good neighbour.”

“(President Donald) Trump has decided he’s not a good neighbour,” she said, to applause.

Regarding support for grizzly hunting – which the BC Liberals have promised to ban within the Great Bear Rainforest and continue with a “science-based approach” in other areas – Cadieux acknowledged the issue is a “very emotional” one.

“I am not a hunter myself and personally not comfortable with it,” she said.

Following criticism of the hunt from other candidates – Silveira said he’d rather see people shoot with a camera; Patsicakis said wildlife needs to be protected “no matter what” – Cadieux noted there would be no hunt if the grizzly population was in danger.

“And, if you eat (meat), you kill animals,” Cadieux said.

One question from the public asked how the candidates would reduce surgical wait times.

Surrey-White Rock independent Tom Bryant said B.C. needs to look at Alberta for a solution; Njenga said something must be done to increase the number of doctors; Hee said medical clinics in shopping centres should stay open later; Patsicakis said the NDP will increase access through provisions for “team-based primary care” and make prescriptions more affordable; and Redies said how health care is delivered needs a rethink.

Barrett said those who can pay for private care should be allowed to “go to the front of the line.”

Private options are also the solution to hospital overcrowding, Barrett said, in response to a question regarding pay parking.

“Overcrowding at hospitals is what leads to the parking issue,” he said. “We need new hospitals, and we need the private sector to do it.”

Cadieux – noting her visitors paid for parking during the nine months she spent in hospital when she was injured – said the reality is that land costs money and the preference is to spend hospital tax dollars “on the people that need it.”

Two Surrey South candidates Fabiola Palomino (Your Political Party of BC) and Pascal Tremblay (BC Green Party), as well as Surrey-White Rock candidate Bill Marshall (BC Green Party) did not attend.

The election takes place May 9.