The candidates are all in favour of boosting the economy and aiding housing affordability but their plans to achieve those ends differ substantially.

On the subject of balancing the budget, Conservative challenger Katerina Anastasiadis blasted the Liberal government both for taking too long to table a budget and for racking up a “staggering” debt.

“Canada’s Conservatives got us out of the last recession and we know we can do it again,” she said.

Anastasiadis said the Conservatives would balance the budget in 10 years without cutting essential services while also doubling healthcare transfers to the provinces and supporting small businesses.

Liberal incumbent Ron McKinnon defended the government’s economic stewardship amid the pandemic.

“As the Conservatives criticized every move we made on pandemic support, I realized they wouldn’t have been there for the 8-million Canadians who needed help to pay their rent and keep food on the table,” he responded. “What they’re saying is they would’ve left you to fend for yourself and left our economy reeling from massive mortgage defaults and bankruptcies and business failures.”

Successive Conservative and Liberal have left too many Canadians burdened by the high cost of living, responded NDP challenger and Port Coquitlam Councillor Laura Dupont.

“Regular people have been carrying the load financially [of our taxes] for too long,” she said.

Dupont touted a plan to raise taxes on Canadians with $20-million or more.

Dupont also emphasized inequality when the debate turned to housing affordability, discussing young professionals who have been priced out of the Tri-Cities. 

“The NDP proposes to get the big money out of the housing market,” she said. Dupont also noted the need to support both renters and rental homes.

McKinnon touted a tax-free savings account for first-time homebuyers as well as the Liberals’ national housing strategy.

That strategy is ultimately “broken and unproductive,” responded Anastasiadis.

“We are not building enough homes to keep up with Canada’s growing population,” she said, noting her party’s plan to build one million houses in three years.

Childcare

Anastasiadis criticized the unveiling of the Liberals’ $10-a-day childcare plan.

“It’s no surprise that this came weeks before an election,” she said.

The Conservative plan involves a refundable tax credit covering as much as 75 percent of childcare costs for lower-income families.

“This can be made effective immediately,” she pledged.

McKinnon differed.

A refundable tax credit would fail to build a “high-quality system of professional early-learning educators,” he said.

The Liberals plan will cut childcare costs by 50 percent by the end of 2022, McKinnon said.

Dupont noted both the families unable to afford childcare as well as the women who lost jobs during the pandemic and haven’t been able to get back to work.

If elected, the NDP would deliver $10-a-day childcare, Dupont said.

Reconciliation

Both Dupont and Anastasiadis criticized the Liberals for falling short on Reconciliation.

If elected, Dupont said supplying clean water would be the NDP’s “highest priority.”

Dupont also said Indigenous people should: “sit at the table with us for decision-making for everything that we do.”

Anastasiadis accused the Liberals of “cherrypicking” recommendations from the Truth and Reconciliation Commission.

“A national holiday will not provide First Nations people with clean drinking water,” she added.

Canada needs to confront the shameful reality of residential schools, McKinnon said.

While McKinnon acknowledged there are still 51 long-term water advisories in 32 communities, he noted that more than 100 long-term advisories have been lifted.

“It was unacceptable 10 years ago and it’s unacceptable now,” he said.

Parting shots

McKinnon promised to take the voices of the community back to Ottawa.

He also touted $10-a-day childcare as both an economic plan and a transformative idea for families, “and for women in particular. It will allow them to advance their skills, to go back in the workforce and this will supercharge our economy.”

Dupont said the next generation would be her highest priority, particularly regarding climate change.

“Successive Conservative and Liberal governments have really done very little to deal with the climate crisis,” she said.

Anastasiadis promised to advocate for the riding, suggesting she would try to secure a SkyTrain extension to Port Coquitlam.

Organization

Organized by the Tri-Cities Chamber of Commerce, the debate was live-streamed via Facebook. Candidates were invited based on representing a party with one elected seat, four percent of the last election’s vote or four percent in the polls.