Brad Vis, the federal Conservative Party candidate in the Mission-Matsqui-Fraser Canyon riding, was in Ashcroft for a Town Hall meeting on April 16, and two dozen people were there to listen to him and ask questions.
Vis began the meeting with the singing of “O Canada”, saying he liked to begin that way as a reminder of the great (“Not perfect”) country we live in. He added that that he had an opportunity on the drive up to reflect on what a beautiful part of the country this is.
He spoke briefly about the contentious Conservative party nomination in the riding in 2015, in which the original candidate had to withdraw suddenly, leaving Vis with little time to campaign once he got the nomination. “That’s why I’m starting [to campaign] early this time.”
Vis has already been knocking on doors in the riding, saying he wants people to get to know him and what the Conservative Party stands for. He is a firm believer in the family unit: “Moms, dads, aunts, uncles working together to support the family is best.” In addition to a message of “family first”, Vis emphasized the need for civic duty and personal responsibility.
“I come from a blue collar background and grew up with immigrants who didn’t ask for help from the government.”
Protecting Canadian sovereignty is a key issue for him. “We need control over our borders. We can’t help those less fortunate if we can’t protect our borders.”
He also stressed the need for fiscal responsibility from the federal government. “Justin Trudeau promised a balanced budget by 2019,” he said, to groans from the audience. “Where is that money going? To low-income families, seniors, people with disabilities? We don’t know how it’s impacting the average Canadian family.
“I’m concerned that my young son will be paying for the deficit of today when he’s a grownup. We’re disadvantaging the future of young Canadians, and we need to respect the money of taxpayers.”
Vis noted the need for economic, social, and environmental sustainability. “We appreciate the need to look after the environment, but we need good-paying, sustainable jobs, and I believe that the Conservative Party can balance that.”
He said that at 22,000 square kilometres, the Mission-Matsqui-Fraser Canyon riding is a massive one that will present challenges to whoever wins. He proposes establishing a mobile MP office so that the towns in the riding have regular contact with their Member of Parliament.
It is, he says , a way of providing effective representation. “I want to help rural communities navigate bureaucracy. Small municipalities sometimes don’t have the knowledge and resources to do that.” Other concerns include affordability; gang violence (“That’s not so big here, but it’s big in Abbotsford and Mission”); infrastructure, which Vis notes impacts everyone across the region but is of great concern in this area following recent wildfires, flooding, and mudslides; and roads and transportation.
An audience member said that his policy on pipelines was “Let’s get them built,” and Vis agreed. “The Conservative Party wants to champion the Kinder Morgan pipeline and get it built, and increase our oil exports to the east. We need to use our resources to help us grow, and the federal government has the tools to move [the pipeline] along if it’s in the national interest of Canada. Under [Conservative Party leader] Andrew Scheer, we’ll use the tools available while balancing First Nations interests and the economy.”
There were questions about veterans, with Vis saying the party was pushing for more support for vets with PTSD: “We’re not going to let them down.” He added that the Conservatives would be looking at ways to enable veterans and seniors who are on pensions but who would like to work on the side to do so without it affecting their pension or GIC payments.
In answer to a question about a local group finding it difficult to get charitable status because of the government not allowing them to use faith-based words, Vis replied that the Conservatives recognize the importance of protecting religious liberties in Canada.
“It’s a big concern for many in the Conservative Party, and we fought hard regarding the pro-life stance of some federal programs. We need to stand up for religious liberties.”
Asked what he would do if the Conservative Party went one way, while constituents in the riding didn’t agree, Vis said “My responsibility, first and foremost, rests with the people who put me [in office]. I would vote against my party if [they propose something] that’s not what constituents want. I’d be your representative in Ottawa, not Ottawa’s representative in the riding.”
Asked if there was any way to get rid of Justin Trudeau, Vis replied “October 21, my friends,” to laughter. More seriously, he continued “I’ve been to 14,000 houses in the riding in the last few months, and people are upset: because life is unaffordable, because they don’t know about the independence of our judiciary, because they’re concerned about the sovereignty of our country. Housing affordability is something we’re passionate about, and we need to do a better job.”
Vis is an advocate of an elected Senate (“If not elected, then abolish it”), noting that while Quebec has 25 senators, B.C. has six. “Yet we pay Quebec each year. We’re underrepresented in Ottawa, and the west wants in. Justin Trudeau doesn’t get the west.”
Money laundering is one thing he says needs addressing, as well as conservation to protect vulnerable ecosystems. “We need more conservation officers, more boots on the ground in B.C. We need to get more money here for flood mitigation. There’s not enough infrastructure funding. And we need to protect the steelhead, and have a sustainable salmon fishery.”
Asked if he understands people in this region, Vis replied “Not completely. I do come from a rural background, but I don’t understand Ashcroft and Cache Creek as well as I should.”
He noted that the Conservative Party has no plans to overturn the legal cannabis legislation, even though they disagreed with a lot of it. “Legalized cannabis is here to stay, but it happened too fast. Andrew Scheer has committed to review the legislation and put further restrictions in place to protect families, children, and homeowners.”
Vis concluded by saying that the Conservatives would work for all Canadians. “The Conservative Party believes all people are equal, and we all have to fight to make better lives for ourselves, and live by the consequences of our actions. We’re focused on people getting along by merit, and being judged by the actions you do.
“My first priority is to win your trust. I have a lot of work to do here, and I take that very seriously. I hope I’m someone you feel you can contact, and I’ll be responsive.”