Saturday, October 04, 2008

The Vancouver-South candidates debate the issues

On Friday morning I had a chance to escape from the campaign office for a little while and attend an all candidates meeting for the riding of Vancouver-South, held on the campus of Langara College. I briefly considered doing j-school at Langara back in the day, but I decided on a four year program and ended up at Carleton instead.

Participating in the debate were Liberal Ujjal Dosanjh, Conservative Wai Young, NDPer Ann Chambers, the Greens’ Csasba Gulya and Marxist-Leninist candidate Charles Boylan.
Besides being a political nerd that for some reason really enjoys all candidates meetings, I was particularly interested to see if Young would shake the Conservative muzzle (there seems to be an epidemic of Conservative candidates hiding from the public this election) and answer questions about the $579,000 grant she received from the federal government AFTER she received the Conservative candidate. To Young’s credit she did participate in the meeting, even if she did dodge the issue.

The opening statements were pretty standard. Boylan (ML) wants his leader in the TV debates too, and wants to end the per vote subsidy that he says parties use to bribe the tv corporations to exclude parties like his from the debates. He’d like to end party nominations, have groups like nurses pick candidates, and give the vote subsidy directly to candidates. Chambers (NDP) hit on all the expected points, such as accessible education, affordable housing and daycare.

In his opening statement, Dosanjh (LIB) pointed-out that with a majority Stephen Harper would have killed the Insite safe injection site. The Liberal vision is a progressive vision for Canada with investment and education, not plagiarized speeches from George W. Bush disciples. The gang and drug wars are taking a toll, and we need more officers on the beat, and must also invest in crime prevention. We need to get tough on repeat offenders, but putting 14 year olds (16 in Quebec) in jail with hardened criminals for life is not the answer. This must be the Conservative child care program, cracked Dosanjh. The Harper vision would wreck Canada; the Liberals are Canada’s only progressive alternative.

Gulya (Green) promised free votes, a promise he noted Harper broke, and said the environment is all around you and you can start the positive change right at home. Young (CON) burned much of her opening statement on a lengthy biography and shout-outs to the campus, before going on to say elections are about how tax dollars are spent, and students should research how the various parties plan to spend their tax dollars. She added the Conservatives are the only party with a long-term policy for student loans and grants, which drew a few guffaws from the assembled students. She also told the audience she wouldn’t be getting into policy, but that people could find it on their Web site.

The first question asked Young (CON) not to be so ambiguous about CPC policy but to share some of it with the audience; she directed them to the Web site, and threw in some attacks on Liberal immigration policy for good measure.

Dosanjh (LIB) rightly retorted that Young can’t show the questioner the Conservative platform because they don’t have one, which drew laughs. He went on to say last night at the debates Stephen Harper said Canadians are only concerned about the stock market, but this morning the Bank of Canada invested to protect mortgages, which he said sounds like a crises to him.
Responding to Young’s immigration charges, Dosanjh pointed-out that under the Conservatives there has been an increase in temporary worker permits and a corresponding decrease in the number of permanent residents admitted. Dosanjh said if they’re worthy to work here, Mr. Harper, they’re worthy to stay, which even earned applause from Young.

Gulya (Green) made the correct point that the Conservatives are replacing lost high-paying manufacturing jobs with low-paying service industry (often part-time) jobs, which is no way to grow a sustainable economy.

Young (CON) refused to sign the Kyoto Plus Pledge signed by all the other candidates, including early on the stage by the Marxist-Leninist.

A woman who identified herself as a Conservative supporter asked Young if her party would ever actually release a written platform and if she have time to read it before election day; Young promised she would.

Dosanjh (LIB) challenged Young on her plum government contact, and Young bizarrely responded by accusing Dosanjh of not wanting working moms to run for public office. What that has to do with lucrative government contracts going to Conservative candidates I don’t know; neither did the audience who laughed with puzzlement.

I liked the accent of the NDP candidate, I think it was Irish (as is ¼ of me) but I felt bad for her when she seemed to froze when asked to explain her party’s environmental policy. She looked like a deer in the headlights, and seemed tongue-tied for a good 20 seconds before the moderator pitched in “cap and trade” and she got back on track a little. She also flipped madly through a thick briefing book for 2 minutes before answering a question on Darfur, but Ms. Chambers seemed genuinely sincere. Ms. Young, however, seemed chippy and combatitive, and her reluctance to discuss much actual Conservative policy, and instead insist the students research it themselves, was puzzling.

In the end, I felt Dosanjh’s closing remarks summed it up well. This election is a choice between a Conservative vision and a Liberal vision. The Conservatives want you to fend for yourself with a few tax cuts, and say you don’t need government. The Liberals believe government has a vital role to play in providing the best health care, ensuring social justice, and providing a distinct Canadian voice to the world (and one that’s written in Canada too).

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Saskboy said...

Wow, a Conservative showed up to a local debate??? What is their party stooping to now?

Mike514 said...

Why is Dosanjh attacking the Tory candidate? Didn't he get Bob Rae's memo? He's supposed to focus his attacks on the NDP.

A BCer in Toronto said...

Uj has always been a maverick.

Carrie said...

Interesting. Thanks for this.

I watched some local candidates debate on tv in London, Ontario. The Conservative candidate stuttered, coughed a lot, couldn't answer many questions well and seemed the only one there who didn't know what she was talking about. She had no substantive answers to anything. Yet her signs dominate the riding and we're supposed to consider her a viable rep of our area? I don't think so.
Oh, she too was pushing her website for info. When asked how she would know what her riding wanted, she suggested they email her. lol

Carrie said...

Wanted to say too that the NDP candidate was all talk. She currently holds my riding and apart from occasional newsletters talking up very small things she's doing, she isn't doing nearly enough. She claims to have been knocking on doors throughout the past year but I never heard from her once. Neither has anyone else in my neighbourhood.

900 ft Jesus said...

glad that the CONs are being hit for not coming out with a platform in time for people to look it over and question it. That's a shifty dodge to avoid questions, other than the "where's your platform?"

Can't understand why more isn't being made of this. It's outrageous.uq

J said...

Thanks for the posting. It's quite disappointing to see that Young would defer everything to her website. I know that she recently moved back to BC but she must be really out of touch with her riding to suggest people emailing her so that she knows what they want. She needs to be involved in the community more and not send her manager/staff to do all the work for her. Even for the $600,000 government contract scandal she was "not available" for comment thus sending her manager to confront the media. I am startled by the amount of lawn signs she has in her riding. Although she has been using the minority/woman card, I see no substantiating rationale of her popularity. The debate obviously showed she lacked knowledge and accepting the half million $ contract showed she lacked judgement.