There wasn't much in the way of fireworks or knockout blows, but there was still plenty of discussion at the Port Moody-Coquitlam all-candidates debate Wednesday night.
Despite the event coinciding with Game 1 of the Vancouver Canucks' Stanley Cup playoff run, dozens of residents and party supporters turned out to the Inlet Theatre to hear the three candidates take questions and debate a wide range of topics, including transportation, the budget, education and even mixed-martial arts.
Likely the most heated part of the night came during a discussion of the Murray-Clarke Connector.
Liberal candidate Dennis Marsden said he's spoken to some residents who have concerns about spending $70 million on the project, and suggested the studies related to the project are nearly a decade old and need to be updated.
He then questioned why his opponent, NDP candidate Joe Trasolini, didn't approach the federal government for funding for the connector when he was mayor of Port Moody, while MLAs in the riding were urging him to do so.
He also noted at the same time, the mayor of Port Coquitlam was able to secure funding for an overpass in that community.
"That's about working together," Marsden said.
But Trasolini was quick to respond.
"I've never heard of so much hogwash at any one time and any one place," he said, pointing out that Marsden himself supported the project as a member of the Tri-Cities Chamber of Commerce.
BC Conservative candidate Christine Clarke said she doesn't believe in the project and argued it wouldn't make sense to start building the connector until the full impact of the Evergreen Line and new Port Mann Bridge are understood.
"Before we run a four-lane highway down beside our waterfront park, we better really understand whether we need it," she said.
When asked what program any of the candidates would cut, or if they would consider raising taxes to keep up with inflation, the answers varied.
Trasolini took a swipe at the government, suggesting he would make sure the premier's office has the same rules of hiring and spending as other provincial departments.
"I would not spend money on advertising what a great job the government is doing in creating jobs," he said.
Clarke said her party would not raise taxes, and then blasted the government's jobs plan.
"I think the jobs plan is the biggest waste of money we've ever had in British Columbia," she said, while suggesting the unemployment rate in B.C. is the highest in Canada.
Marsden said he would like to look at bringing down bonuses for Crown corporations and public-sector employees, but challenged Clarke's statement that her party wouldn't raise taxes.
"I think it's delusional to say 'We're not going to raise taxes and we're not going to cut programs either,'" he said.
Marsden, who noted his party has a budget, also went on the offensive, questioning why both the NDP and Conservatives have yet to produce a fully costed budget.
Both Trasolini and Clarke insisted their parties would have a budget by the next election.
But Marsden was on the defensive when it came to increasing fees for services like ICBC and BC Hydro.
He said people need to realize the Crown corporations are sources of revenue for government, which is needed to pay for services for residents.
Marsden said he supports both a decision by the TransLink commissioner to not raise transit fares as well as an audit of the transportation authority.
But Trasolini argued the government has had more than 10 years to do something about the costs and questioned whether the public should believe Liberal promises to perform the audit.
Clarke also criticized the Liberals, noting recent revelations that TransLink has been unable to collect fines from fare evaders, while also suggesting there was a report pointing out the problem, but the government failed to act.
Sticking with transportation and the topic of tolling and road pricing, Trasolini said there needs to be a proper discussion around the idea, but then slammed TransLink's governance model, which was set up by the governing Liberals.
He said TransLink needs to go back to square one with a governance model that includes elected officials who represent communities.
Marsden countered by noting he supports a review of the governance structure, but then argued when the mayors had more of a say, there was a lot of inability for the elected officials to work together for the greater good of the region.
Clarke, on the other hand, said she supports a user-pay system that makes all sets of users pay.
The three candidates also weighed in on the ongoing teachers' dispute and Bill 22, legislation that puts an end to limited job action and sends the issue to mediation.
Trasolini said the legislation is an "impediment to meaningful dialogue," then recalled his record for dealing with difficult labour issues as mayor by getting resolutions through trust and mutual understanding.
Clarke called Bill 22 "punitive legislation" and suggested the government needs to separate wage demands from classroom conditions.
"It [Bill 22] will not accomplish anything except get us right back where we started," she said.
But Marsden defended the bill, arguing it brings the ability to negotiate class size and composition.
As for mixed-martial arts, the candidates were asked if they would support the creation of a provincial athletic commission for the sport.
Trasolini said he personally doesn't care for the sport, but Marsden acknowledged the sport's popularity and suggested he would support looking at the idea in conjunction with advice from medical professionals.
. For live coverage of the Thursday, April 19, byelection results, follow us on Twitter (@coquitlamnow), and visit us online at www. thenownews.com after polls close at 8 p.m.
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