The three candidates for Courtenay-Comox debated in a virtual forum on Oct. 8. Image, screenshot

Courtenay-Comox candidates face off in online debate

Issues at chamber event included seniors’ homes, economy, housing

The three candidates vying for the Courtenay-Comox electoral district made their pitch to voters during an online debate Thursday night.

The Oct. 8 event, hosted by the Comox Valley Chamber of Commerce, was held via video link with candidates giving brief introductory and closing remarks but spending the most time answering 10 submitted questions.

Some of the major responsibilities of the provincial government such as health care and education did not come into play. Instead, the questions tackled topics such as seniors care, especially during the current pandemic, boosting the economy, particularly for tourism and small business, a value-added tax to place provincial sales tax, support for retrofits on housing, insurance issues for strata councils and measures to boost housing supply.

The NDP’s incumbent Ronna-Rae Leonard cited some of her government’s achievements, including leadership in response to the COVID-19 virus.

“We’ve shown the world how we can stick together through this pandemic,” she said in her concluding remarks.

Leonard cited other examples such as balanced budgets, an ambitious climate plan and local modular housing units.

“We need a stable government that’s going to be able to deliver,” she said.

Her opponents, Liberal Brennan Day and Green Gillian Anderson, went after the NDP on a number of fronts, such as boosting the economy or breaking environmental promises. Both questioned the need even to hold an election right now.

“The NDP has called a snap election while the province is is under a state of emergency,” Day said in his opening.

He focused heavily on the BC Liberals’ plan to stimulate the economy by eliminating the provincial sales tax this year, then holding it at three per cent in subsequent years until the economy recovers.

“This is the bold idea we need to get the economy going,” he said.

Day also cited measures such as cutting the small business tax.

Leonard responded that the move to cut the provincial tax was something that would disproportionately help wealthier people with more discretionary income to spend on luxury items. She said necessities such as food or medicine are already exempt from the PST.

One contentious issue was the payroll tax the NDP brought in to replace MSP premiums, with Leonard saying the largest companies were paying for most of it and Day responding that many smaller business were being hit hard by the new tax.

For Anderson, who ran against Leonard to represent the NDP in 2017, the key issue came down to broken promises from NDP leader John Horgan, such as not going to the polls early, as well as flipping on issues such as the Site C dam project or projects for liquefied natural gas.

“Mr. Horgan had a stable government with the Greens,” she said.

On several occasions, she came back to a point about using provincial money for more important priorities than “megaprojects” such as Site C.

On seniors care, Anderson went after the other parties, saying the Greens were the only ones proposing to end for-profit care and criticized Leonard and the NDP for blaming the previous Liberal government for continuing problems in some seniors’ homes.

“They’ve had 40 months to fix this problem,” she said.

RELATED STORY: B.C. party leaders talk taxes, housing

The full video for the 80-minute debate can be found on the Facebook page for the Comox Valley Chamber of Commerce.

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