As the top dogs in the provincial election were battling it out in front of a TV audience, the Coquitlam-Burke Mountain hopefuls were also squaring off Monday night in one of several all-candidate forums leading up to the vote in two weeks.
Hosted by the Tri-Cities Chamber of Commerce, four out of the five candidates in the riding were on hand to answer questions on a range of topics from transit to healthcare and education at the Coquitlam Douglas College campus in a two-hour forum.When asked about a long-term solution for school district deficits, Liberal incumbent Doug Horne noted funding to districts has increased each year, while student enrolment has dropped.
He argued the issue needs to be looked at holistically, adding the province has excellent outcomes in education.
NDP candidate Chris Wilson suggested there needs to be a better relationship between teachers and the government.
He also said that school districts costs are rising faster than the funding, and that both districts and government need to be more efficient.
That starts with a better relationship with teachers, Wilson said.
BC Conservative candidate Shane Kennedy said more funding is needed for education, but the province needs to spend the money smarter.
Libertarian Party candidate Paul Geddes suggested there should be a variety of educational experiments in each district.
I dont think this top-down education monopoly is working for us, we should have more variety, he said.
On the topic of the future of the Riverview lands, three of the four candidates appeared to be on the same page.
Kennedy said the lands should be preserved for park space, while Horne said the lands should be kept as a community space.
More specifically, the incumbent said the lands should maintain their farm-like, community setting, and be used for health care purposes.
I think people should be able to go there and enjoy it, Horne said.
Wilson agreed, but added the lands could be used for an education or healthcare facility and consultation is still needed.
Geddes differed from the other candidates, suggesting the groups in the area who want the lands should buy it for an appropriate price from the taxpayers.
When questioned about reducing poverty, Kennedy said he supports a $10-a-day childcare program, arguing it helps get single parents back into the workforce.
The NDP candidate said his party plans to increase the baby bonus and social assistance rates to inflation, while also focusing on skills training and education.
Horne suggested building the economy would create more resources to help those in need.
Geddes said he didnt want government money to go to poor people, and instead favoured a variety of competing charities in which people can choose the ones they wish to support.
On the issue of healthcare and the local hospitals, Horne said hed like to see a dialogue around using the Riverview lands for a new acute care hospital that would supplement both Eagle Ridge Hospital (ERH) and Royal Columbian Hospital (RCH).
Wilson said the province needs to commit more money for diagnostic equipment and staff whether it is at ERH or RCH.
Horne was asked about the issue around Premier Christy Clark running a red light with her son and a reporter in the car.
In response, the incumbent agreed with the NDP stance, suggesting its time to take politics out of the gutter.
Its far more important to talk about the issues, he said.
Green Party candidate Ron Peters did not attend the debate.
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