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Economy, environment top issues

First of five all candidate debates held at Whistler Secondary



Whether you vote for parties, people, or principles, the four candidates in the West Vancouver-Sunshine Coast-Sea to Sky Country riding gave Whistler residents a lot to consider heading into the Oct. 14 federal election.

At an all-candidates meeting on Monday, Sept. 29, hosted by the Whistler Chamber of Commerce, voters had a chance to meet the candidates and ask questions.

The event was moderated by Mike Mills, with each candidate getting three minutes to introduce themselves and two minutes to sum up at the end of the meeting. During the main part of the discussion members of the audience — roughly 65 people — asked questions from the floor, while Mills asked written questions submitted by voters before the meeting.

The first questions related to infrastructure funding, Canada’s debt, and affordability in the riding, and the candidates used the opportunity to discuss their economic platforms.

Green Party candidate Blair Wilson used the opportunity to take a shot at Conservative Finance Minister Jim Flaherty for taxing “royalty trusts”, and not cutting the capital gains tax. He said the Green Party would raise GST by one per cent, and use a resulting $6.5 billion each year to invest in green infrastructure.

Conservative candidate John Weston credited Prime Minister Stephen Harper for Canada’s relative economic stability, and the fact that Canada was the only G8 country to post a surplus last year. He also pointed to 29 tax cuts brought in by Harper that have given Canadians back $20 billion in the past two and a half years.

“We believe that putting dollars back in the pockets of citizens is more powerful than putting that dollar in the pock of a government bureaucrat,” he said. He also said that Wilson, when with the Liberal Party, voted against $150 million in infrastructure improvements for the Olympics.

On the affordability issue, Weston pointed, again, to Harper’s tax cuts and a higher threshold for taxes that made it possible for 700,000 more low income earners to pay no taxes last year. He also pointed to the $1,200 universal child care benefit available to families, as well as the $500 tax credit to participate in sports programs.

NDP Candidate Bill Forst said he wasn’t aware that he had any more money in his pockets, and suggested that most of the benefits from Conservative tax cuts went to corporations instead of people. He compared $50 billion in tax credits to industry on a per capita basis to the $700 billion bailout requested by Wall Street to help with the economic crisis, and said the NDP would channel profits at the Canadian Mortgage and Housing Corporation into new affordable housing.

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