Rumble and stumbles at Coquitlam-Burke Mountain election debate

Candidates vying to be the next MLA for Coquitlam-Burke Mountain sparred over schools, transit and housing affordability at the Tri-Cities Chamber of Commerce all-candidates meeting Wednesday evening at Douglas College in Coquitlam.

The Green Party’s Joe Keithley and the NDP’s Jodie Wickens did not take many shots at each other, using most of their time to target BC Liberal candidate Joan Isaacs and the Christy Clark government.

Keithley called Doug Horne, the former BC Liberal representative for the riding, a “do-nothing MLA” who failed to bring schools and transit to the area. He said voters could expect more of the same if they elect another Liberal to represent Coquitlam-Burke Mountain.

Wickens blasted the Clark government over the transit referendum, noting that people will have a difficult time accessing the new Evergreen Line if the government does not step up with more funding for buses in the area.

Residents are calling for transit, she said, “and the Liberal government is not providing it for them.”

While her opponents were on the attack, Isaacs stumbled on the issue of what should be done with funds generated from the carbon tax. After moderator David Crawford posed the question, she paused for more than 20 seconds to look through a binder full of notes before asking if another candidate could answer ahead of her.

At another point she appeared to confuse a proposal to change the infrastructure funding formula — which currently sees the cost of large projects split evenly between the federal, provincial and municipal governments — with a P3, or public-private partnership.

But Isaacs received loud applause when she said the reason housing affordability is a challenge in Metro Vancouver is because the economy is strong. She added that it is thanks to BC Liberal policies that the region is a “desirable place to live.”

“There are unintended consequences,” she said. “When we are looking for solutions, we want to make sure we do not devalue the equity in someone’s home.”

Keithley shot back, saying that what the province calls a success, he sees as a failure.

“If we are in the same level of housing cost as New York and San Francisco… How is that succeeding?” he asked.

Wickens also weighed in on affordability, echoing Keithley’s call to tax foreign investment and use the money to pay for affordable housing, an idea Isaacs said she is open to discussing.

“We have families that are buying homes but life is incredibly unaffordable for them,” Wickens said.

Libertarian candidate Paul Geddes interjected at several points. He said that none of the candidates — including himself — knows how to run a transit system, a health care system or a school system, and that these jobs should be left to the private sector. “I don’t really like taxes at all,” he said, adding that competition, not a government monopoly, would bring the overall price of services down. “I think people should pay for those things on their own.”

Voters go to the polls in Coquitlam-Burke Mountain Feb. 2, with advance polling getting underway this weekend. For details, go to

In their own words…

On Affordability

• Paul Geddes: “We think [real estate] prices should be free to fluctuate. There is something wrong with the price of housing in B.C. because there is a land-control issue.”

• Joan Isaacs: “We want to protect homeowners’ equity, particularly for seniors, who may be relying on that equity for the next stage in life.”

• Joe Keithley: “Christy Clark has been premier for five years. She has had all the time to deal with it. At the same time, she has not been able.”

• Jodie Wickens: “[Taxing empty houses] is something that can be done today. Christy Clark has been largely ineffective on this.”

On Transit

• Geddes: “We want innovation. We want people to try different things to see what works. Top-down planning does not work.”

• Isaacs: “As part of government, I will keep transportation costs down, making sure that taking transit is affordable and not eating into families’ budgets.”

• Keithley: The infrastructure funding formula “could be something like 90/10 [%]. The provincial and the federal government would pick up 45% and the city would pick up 10%… The mayors have no way to raise the money except through property tax.”

• Wickens: “We need buses going out to the communities that need them and deserve them and were promised them.”

On Education

• Geddes: “The government gives the school approximately $8,000 in operating costs per child… Just imagine if the government, instead of giving that money to the school, they gave that money to you and your family, and you had a choice of where to spend that $8,000 for your child.”

• Isaacs: “I am committed to ensuring that our kids have a quality education. But just as important, I want to make sure they have the life skills that they need that they can move on to the next phase of their life and take proper steps to build their careers.”

• Keithley: “Something I have been talking about for a long time is kids learning coding in classrooms… Kids understanding programming, algorithms is the economy of the future, not LNG or mineral extraction.”

• Wickens: “I am the only person on this panel that’s been in a classroom for this generation of students. The BC NDP fully supports increasing public education funding.”

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