Election 2015: All-candidates’ meeting focuses on social issues

NANAIMO – A crowd of about 300 turned out to hear three federal party representatives talk about social issues.

Federal candidates talked refugees, safety and security legislation, and the Canadian Broadcast Corporation in a two-hour all-candidates’ event Tuesday.

An estimated 300 people packed the Beban Park Social Centre, filling the room to capacity and spilling out into the hallway to hear three federal party candidates speak to social justice issues.

The event, hosted by the Canadian Federation of University Women Nanaimo and First Unitarian Fellowship of Nanaimo, was not attended by the Conservative Party’s Nanaimo-Ladysmith candidate Mark MacDonald.

Questions touched on a wide range of social issues facing Canadians, from the balance between security and the Syrian refugee crisis response to the CBC and the anti-terrorism legislation contained in Bill C-51.

“I would support general Rick Hillier, his plan,” said Green Party candidate Paul Manly. “He was the former commander of Canadian military and he says that we should be air lifting women and children and elderly people directly from refugee camps surrounding Syria and taking them here.

“That’s not a security risk.”

Manly pointed to his own family’s record of supporting refugees from Vietnam and Syria and called for peace and security in the Middle East.

Tim Tessier, Liberal candidate, said Canada has a strong history of helping people. He grew up in an era where the country was known around the world as “the army of humanitarians.”

“When did we lose the blue hats? Seriously. When did we lose that?” he said, adding that it’s time the federal government sets the stage and establishes a pattern of humanitarianism and support.

“What we’re prepared to do as the Liberal Party of Canada is we’re going to immediately going to open our doors to 25,000 more refugees from Syria. To do this we will invest $250 million, including $100 million this fiscal year to increase refugee processing,” he said.

NDP candidate Sheila Malcolmson said if it forms government, her party would, by the end of this year, invite 10,000 Syrian refugees into the country and pull resources from other parts of the diplomatic foreign service to make it happen.

It would accept another 9,000 Syrian refugees a year for the next four years.

“It’s so time to change the government, so time to bring us back to a place where we’re viewed in the world as a country that cares and as a country that offers a helping hand,” she said.

MP hopefuls talked to Bill C-51, which Malcolmson and Manly both called overkill and promised their parties would repeal.

Tessier, said his party has introduced amendments to the bill and will make changes as soon as it gets elected.

Manly, the only candidate questioned on his party’s stance on federal funding for public broadcasting, won applause as he told the crowd the CBC needs to be re-funded.

“When I went into broadcasting school in 1989, 95 per cent of the grads got jobs. Half way through they cut half of CBC and when I graduated five per cent got jobs,” he said. “I’ve watched them cut and cut and cut and cut and it’s ridiculous.”

The Greater Nanaimo Chamber of Commerce is slated to hold an all-candidates’ forum Oct. 14 with all four main political parties represented.