What was billed as an all-candidates meeting for politicians running in the Abbotsford-Mission riding, turned out to be a two-candidates meeting.
RELATED: Abbotsford-Mission riding profile
Liberal candidate and incumbent MLA Simon Gibson faced the Green Party’s Jennifer Holmes in a debate hosted by Abbotsford’s Chamber of Commerce, the Fraser Valley Indo Canadian Business Association and the Fraser Valley Real Estate Board at Creekside Centre Thursday evening.
According to organizers, the Christian Heritage party’s Dan Dameron had accepted an invitation to the debate but canceled a few hours before the 7 p.m. start time. An NDP spokesperson said its candidate, Andrew Christie, missed the meeting because a close friend had recently passed away.
Holmes, a healthcare worker and political newcomer, described herself as a political junkie who finally decided to get involved after years on the sidelines.
She laid out the Green Party’s plan for an environmentally friendly economy that prioritizes new technologies. She said the Fraser Valley could become like the Silicon Valley – the California city and tech hub home to Apple, Google and others – if housing and other living costs were low enough to attract businesses and workers.
Holmes said she supports a free market economy and opposes an increase to corporate taxes. (The Greens and NDP both propose increasing the corporate tax rate from 11 to 12 per cent in their platforms.)
A question from the Abbotsford Chamber of Commerce asked each candidate how they would ensure Kinder Morgan’s proposed expansion of its TransMountain pipeline, which cuts through Abbotsford.
Holmes said she opposes the project. She said the Green Party’s plan to encourage growth in new sectors would compensate for the loss of potential pipeline jobs.
Gibson, running for his second term in the riding, said he and his party approve of the TransMountain project as it is “in the best interest of the province.” He said the company has met the five conditions laid out by Premier Christy Clark, including spill response plans and consultation with First Nations along the route.
Gibson said the Liberal party’s platform is the most friendly to small businesses, pointing to new breaks on BC Hydro rates, a promised reduction in the small business tax and the companies benefiting from the Site C Dam project in northeast B.C.
The threat posed to B.C.’s forestry industry by new protectionist tariffs from U.S. President Donald Trump was raised during the debate. Both candidates agreed the industry needs to find a more diverse customer base, especially in Asia.
Holmes repeatedly said it is crucial for B.C. to ship fewer raw logs out of the province and to create jobs by processing them into lumber and other value-added products.
Gibson described being on a trade trip in China and feeling pride when he spotted a truck emblazoned with the logo of B.C.-based forest product company Canfor. He said the bus he was on erupted in applause.