All three opposition parties in Richmond felt the cold shoulder from Conservative candidates Alice Wong and Kenny Chiu, neither of whom attended a federal election forum Tuesday night at Gilmore United Church.
The 120-strong, senior-laden crowd had expected Wong and Kenny Chiu to speak to issues of social justice, the topic of the evening, which was organized by the church, Richmond Poverty Response Committee and Richmond’s University Women’s Club (CFUW) in the run-up to the Oct. 19 election.
Wong and Kenny Chiu both declined to attend, saying they “can’t attend every meeting.” They had been given ample notice of the event, according to the organizers.
“For democracy to work, we need to make sure each candidate is present. In this kind of meeting, it is typical for the Conservatives not to show up,” said Liberal candidate Lawrence Woo.
The Greens, Liberals and the NDP took the opportunity to make promises on improving the likes of healthcare, student debt and environmental protection.
Liberal candidate Joe Peschisolido said one of the keys to healthcare delivery is more collaboration and engagement with the provinces.
NDP candidate Scott Stewart said austerity measures in healthcare spending “began with the Liberals and continued with the Conservatives.”
Peschisolido has maintained his Liberals have a more realistic approach to spending by running “minor” deficits for social programs.
“If you want to spend money, you have to get it from somewhere,” said Peschisolido.
The issue of affordable housing was also raised.
“The NDP will restore federal subsidized housing,” said NDP candidate Jack Trovato.
The Greens would commit similar measures to restore co-op housing, said Green candidate Vincent Chiu, who told the audience his generation is experiencing “shattered dreams” in the wake of growing post-secondary debt.
With the Greens proposing a new set of polluter pay taxes and greater corporate taxes (to 2009 levels) Vincent Chiu was the only candidate to state that his party would “immediately” restore international aid spending to United Nations standards of 0.7 per cent of GDP (Canada spends 0.25 per cent).
Candidates were asked to comment on the Tories’ pledge to set up a police hotline for “barbaric cultural practices” involving women.
“Why is this an issue and not the missing and murdered Aboriginal women?” asked Stewart, whose NDP has pledged to investigate the matter immediately with a cabinet-level committee led by the prime minister.
Asian malls hosted all-candidate meetings over the weekend
Last Thursday, Wong did attend a forum on seniors organized by CARP chair Geoff Cowman, who said Conservative cuts to the CBC and Canada Post were most on the minds of seniors.
Over the weekend, all parties except for the Greens attended a Chinese-speaking forum hosted by Fairchild TV and Talentvision at Aberdeen Centre. Vancouver East candidate Jenny Kwan represented the NDP while Richmond candidates Woo and Kenny Chiu took to the podium. The forum focused on marijuana, citizenship laws, Canada-China relations and immigration policies. There was also a meeting at the Yaohan Centre.
Richmond Centre for Disability will be hosting a debate tonight (Wednesday) at the Minoru Place Activity Centre from 6 - 8 p.m.