Vancouver Quadra Member of Parliament (MP) candidates congregated in the Nest’s Lev Bukhman Lounge on Thursday night for an All-Candidates Debate, hosted by the AMS and UBC Debate Society.
Three of the candidates were in attendance: Joyce Murray from the Liberal Party, Leigh Kenny from the New Democratic Party and Geoff Wright from the Green Party.
Topics discussed included affordable housing, accessible higher education, Indigenous reconciliation and health care.
Wright and Kenny critiqued Murray for the mistakes and shortcomings of her party and majority leader Justin Trudeau — stirring applause from the crowd of students — while Murray argued that Liberals were still the better and most feasible alternative to Conservatives.
But on the whole, candidates generally agreed on most issues presented, varying slightly in how they would implement different policies and to what extent.
The first question on housing garnered similar responses from all candidates with Murray, the incumbent, stressing the work the Liberals had already done on the issue. Wright called affordable housing a “fundamental human right.” Murray also emphasized the importance of infrastructure such as transit.
In the follow up questions, Wright criticized Murray for bringing up rapid transit as a way to support renters.
“It’s a red herring to be talking about housing and then say, ‘Oh, I’m building a subway.’ We’re all in favour of bringing a subway out to UBC. That doesn’t impact housing,” Wright said.
The second question centered around expanding health care.
Wright emphasized the need for every Canadian to have a family doctor, an idea that was echoed by Murray later. Kenny described the NDP’s Pharmacare plan to expand health care to prescription drugs, mental health and dental care.
She was also the only candidate to address how they would pay for this expanded healthcare, explaining that bulk buying, a super wealth tax and a generally healthier population would help cover the cost.
“If we have people doing what they’re supposed to, going to the doctor, taking their medicine […] they’re going to get better,” Kenny said.
A question on accessible education resulted in varying responses: from Murray’s focus on relieving student debt until people have a stable enough income to pay it off, to Wright’s emphasis on free post-secondary education.
“Universal access to quality post-secondary education and skills training is a right, not a privilege,” Wright said. “When we invest in education, the whole country wins.”
On Indigenous issues, all three candidates agreed that it should be at the centre of conversation.
“The relationship between the government with Indigenous people is our most important relationship,” Murray said.
Audience questions stretched from personal questions such as why they were running for the party they were representing, to a pointed question about the Trans Mountain Pipeline that the Liberals bought in their last term in power.
Wright emphasized re-training of workers in the oil and gas industry, and Kenny echoed that sentiment.
“We’re stuck with [the pipeline],” Kenny said.
Murray took a defensive stance. “I get that people don’t like the pipeline in this area,” Murray said. “[But] the pipeline does not mean the world will use more oil.”
“I argued against it,” Murray said. “Our cabinet decided to go forward.”
Not the full picture
Caroline Hanna, a fourth-year student at UBC said that she liked that the debate was centered around student issues but noticed the gap in representation across the parties.
“I would have preferred to see a full roster of candidates. I found it very interesting that the Conservative candidate was not present, I don’t know necessarily why, but I think it would have been beneficial to have all sides represented,” Hanna said.
The absence of the Conservative candidate, Kathleen Dixon, was a point of contention for the present candidates as well.
Murray sharply criticized the Conservative government under Stephen Harper throughout the debate, adding at one point, “If there was a Conservative candidate here, I’d be looking at her!”
According to VP External Cristina Ilnitchi, the AMS sent out invitations to Vancouver-Quadra candidates from the Liberal, Green, NDP and Conservative parties, in line with the criteria set by the Leader’s Debate Commission.
“All candidates accepted our invitation apart from the Conservative candidate. Later, the Leader’s Debate Commission decided to add the People’s Party of Canada, but by that point the debate format and schedule was already set and confirmed,” Ilnitchi wrote in a statement to The Ubyssey.
The Ubyssey reached out to Dixon, and she replied that she didn’t like the format of the debate and the topics that were to be discussed.
“My debate invitation from the AMS informed me that the debate would focus on a series of issues drawn from the policy priorities of the Greens, the NDP, and the Liberals. There was nothing on the debt, economy or foreign policy,” Dixon wrote in a statement to The Ubyssey.
The bottom line
In their closing statements, candidates summed up why students should vote for them.
Wright reminded attendees that the Green Party is “evidence-based and fiscally responsible” with a flashed-out platform.
“The Green Party is more than a one-issue party,” Wright said.
Kenny stressed that, despite pressures to vote Liberal strategically against Conservatives, Canada is not a two-party system.
“We don’t have two choices for our government. We know what we’re going to get with a Conservative government. We know what we’re going to get with a Liberal government,” Kenny said. “We can see a new and brighter government with the NDP.”
Murray closed by framing the Liberal Party as the only alternative to a Conservative majority.
“Having sat across from the Harper government for all of those years and watched what happened to Canada, watched what happened to our pride in being Canadian,” Murray said. “They’re going to wipe [all of our progress] out.”
“You have a critical decision to make on October 21,” Murray said.