New Westminster candidates vying to be the city's next MLA tackled a variety of topics at Sunday's all-candidates meeting.
About 60 people attended the meeting sponsored by the Queen's Park Residents' Association and fielded questions about topics, including health care, seniors' issues, transportation and the environment.
Hector Bremner (B.C. Liberals); James Crosty (independent); Judy Darcy (NDP); Paul Forseth (B.C. Conservatives); and Terry Tether (Green Party of B.C.) attended the event.
"I have to say that I am deeply, deeply concerned about waste incineration," Darcy said. "I think that we need to be working very closely and encouraging all of the entities at a community level, the health authority, our schools, every level of government to be reducing waste. ... Our first line of dealing with this has to be reducing waste. We also have to look at the broad range of things that contribute to climate change."
Crosty said he opposes waste incineration in New Westminster. In addition to an industrial property in the Braid industrial area, he said there's also been talk of a waste-to-energy facility being contemplated as a new heat source for Royal Columbian Hospital.
"I am vehemently opposed to it," he said. "The bigger picture here is the truck traffic coming through New Westminster."
Teather is also opposed to having an incinerator in New Westminster.
"We view waste management as an investment. It's an area we believe we produce a lot of jobs," he said. "We firmly believe that we expect producers to carry a responsibility for the recycling all of their materials in order not to have to deal with incineration problems in the future."
One attendee questioned how candidates would prioritize health care, education and the environment.
Forseth said the province has constitutional responsibilities to provide health care and education so those are priorities, while environmental issues are handled through a series of rules and regulations. He said the B.C. Conservatives wouldn't be changing the way those issues are prioritized.
"I would consider the environment, as the Greens have for 30 years, the most important of these three options," Teather said. "The reason I say that is we need to look seven generations down the road, we don't need to look one or two generations down the road. We need to look seven generations down the road if we are going to have a sustainable lifestyle. There is no point having excellent health and there is no point having an excellent education if you have nowhere to live."
According to Forseth, more money than ever before is going to provinces from Ottawa for health care. While it's easy for politicians and governments to say they'll spend more money, he said the money has to come from somewhere.
"We've got to be able to grow our economy. That's the only way," he said. "We cannot tax and spend our way to provide services or to improve our quality of life. That's why we need conservative values to be able to move forward, to grow the economy appropriately to pay for the social services we want."
Most candidates indicated they're committed to taking action to ensure all residents have access to a family doctor.
Bremner said the Liberals are already committed to ensuring all British Columbians have access to a family doctor.
"By 2015, the GP for Me program will get a family doctor for anybody who wants one. It's a simple commitment. The money is there," he said. "We have created more new physician spaces since 2001 than any government in British Columbia's history."
Both Teather and Darcy said their par-ties would look at expanding the education opportunities at the post-secondary level to ensure there are more family doctors.
"The NDP also believes we need to put in place health care teams, health-care practices, community health-care centres that have a wide range of health-care professionals. .That's also a more cost effective solution," Darcy said. "You get the care and attention that you need from a professional."
On the issue of seniors, Darcy said the NDP is committed to creating an independent seniors advocate.
"I have been one of the people who has advocated very, very strongly in favour of an independent seniors advocate, one with resources and a budget so that they really can go and investigate complaints because our seniors and their families are in very vulnerable situations," Darcy said. "If they don't have someone to speak out for them, the continual problems with home support, with emergency rooms, with inadequate standards of seniors care (will continue) - we can do better. An independent seniors advocate is a critical, critical piece of the puzzle. I have worked for it for many years and I will work for it with every fibre of my being if you elect me to Victoria."
Forseth said British Columbia has seen the benefits of having Mary Ellen Turpel-Lafond serve as B.C.'s representative for children and youth. He supports an independent advocate looking out for the needs of seniors.
"When she (Turpel-Lafond) comes out with those independent reports concerning the delivery of social services for young people and how those make headlines, regardless of the government in power," he said. "We need that same type of advocacy for seniors."
Bremner said the Liberals are in the process of creating a seniors advocate.
"Our government is unequivocal in making sure that our aging population has the supports they need, has the voice they need," he said. "We are committing the funds and the resources to do it through this new ministry and through this new advocate."
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