It was a night for old chestnuts and freshly slung mud as North Vancouver’s five candidates performed their platforms for a packed house at Highlands United Church Wednesday.
Housing affordability was a major issue for both former Conservative MP Andrew Saxton and NDP candidate Justine Bell, although they differed in how best to address it.
It’s crucial young people can buy a home and create the equity which will form the majority of their pension benefits, Saxton said. To that end, Saxton advocated doing away with the mortgage stress test. Asked if rising interest rates could make that policy a dangerous one, Saxton cited Canada’s previous resilience amid global recession.
Canada is in a “housing crisis,” Bell responded, touting the NDP plan to build 500,000 affordable homes while cracking down on real estate speculation and offering relief for renters.
“Who’s going to pay for it all?” she asked. “The top one per cent is going to pay one per cent more.”
While Liberal incumbent Jonathan Wilkinson spoke at length about the Liberals’ job creation as well as the four-decade low unemployment rate, he also addressed what a Liberal government would not do.
Responding to a debunked rumour suggesting the Liberal government would put a 50 per cent tax on the sale of a principal residence, Wilkinson accused People’s Party of Canada candidate Azmairnin Jadavji of spreading false information.
The proposal is not part of the Liberal platform and Prime Minister Justin Trudeau has denied the claim.
However, Jadavji encouraged the audience to do their own research. “It’s on the internet.”
Jadavji blasted what he characterized as Liberal Party’s commitment to boutique taxes such as travel bursaries designed to allow lower-income families to go camping.
However, Jadavji’s most blistering criticism was reserved for the “government imposed cartel” of supply management. The limits on dairy and egg production create an artificial marketplace responsible for propping up prices, according to Jadavji.
While it may be “very difficult to defend,” supply management is likely here to stay, Saxton said.
Saxton said it would cost $35 to $40 billion to reform the system – money that could be better spent elsewhere.
After detailing recent environmental calamities around the world, Green Party candidate George Orr fenced with Wilkinson about the federal government’s decision to buy the Trans Mountain pipeline.
“The government has no interest in owning a pipeline in the long term,” Wilkinson said, stating any profits from the pipeline’s sale would be directed to renewable energy.
If you found yourself in a hole, Orr advised, “stop digging.” Orr also questioned the salability of the pipeline. “I don’t see them lining up [to buy],” he said.
Wilkinson emphasized that upstream emissions are included in Canada’s plan to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. “There’s no inconsistency in terms of meeting the Paris targets and the pipeline,” Wilkinson said.
Bell promised an NDP government would introduce rigid GHG targets and end billion dollar subsidies to oil and gas subsidies companies.
Canada is rich in forests, water and oil, Javadji said. “We should be taking advantage of these God given resources,” he told the crowd.
Discussing military procurements, Orr said he would advocate for more Coast Guard vessels and hospital ships. “Canada should be in the peace building business, not the war business,” he said.
Fielding a question from a former NDP candidate in the crowd, Saxton defended the government’s decision to sell armoured vehicles to Saudi Arabia. “These are armoured vehicles. These are not actually weapons,” he said. “At that time, these were armoured vehicles [sold] to an ally.”
Saxton repeatedly blasted the Liberals’ failure to pay down the national debt.
“Our problem isn’t that we tax people too little, it’s that we spend too much,” he said.
After being elected, the Liberals made significant investments, particularly in terms of scientific capacity, “which was so badly devastated under the previous government,” Wilkinson responded.
Discussing the 160-million litre sewage dump in Quebec’s St. Lawrence River, Orr suggested the government process was “set up for failure.”
Despite being closest to citizens, municipal governments are the: “least financially able to do anything,” Orr said. That inequity results in crucial infrastructure funds being directed based on politics. “This whole process is like Russian roulette with toilets,” he said.
Discussing health-care transfers, Bell pledged to include mental health services and addictions treatments.
Saxton repeatedly took aim at Trudeau, blasting his decision to don blackface, his violation of ethics rules, and his status as the: “most woke and politically correct leader in the world.”
“Running a country ... is not like attending a masquerade ball,” Saxton said.
Wilkinson said there were “mistakes that were made on all sides of the SNC-Lavalin issue.” While the prime minister and his staff erred, he did not break the law, Wilkinson said. He added that one of the “fundamental roles” of a cabinet minister is to listen to perspectives on every issue.
The election is Oct. 21.