Background: As part of coverage in the 2013 provincial election for The Vancouver Sun. 

Newcomers to provincial politics fight for empty seat in Maple Ridge-Pitt Meadows

With Maple Ridge-Pitt Meadows NDP MLA Mike Sather retiring, the open seat is being contested by a mixture of relative newcomers and veterans to politics.

Conservative Manuel Pratas was shocked even by his own nomination, having not previously anticipated a Conservative candidate to be present in his riding nor in neighbouring Maple Ridge-Mission. Pratas has expressed that the race may be fairly even amongst the current candidates, considering that none of them have run for a provincial seat. Doug Bing of the Liberals and Elizabeth Rosenau for the NDP are also running in the riding for the first time.

Michael Patterson for the Greens is also running for the first time provincially. But he did run, unsuccessfully, for the Greens in 2008′s Maple Ridge municipal election. Patterson currently works as an electrical engineer and telecommunications expert for wireless carriers in B.C.. An avid cyclist, Patterson says in his Green Party profile that, “You don’t have to be left or right wing to support the Green Party. You just have to be someone that cares about your community.”

Although a newcomer to British Columbian politics, construction worker Pratas says he understands the work schedule of a politician — having served three years on city council in Hamilton, Ontario — and wants to put in more time and effort than most. “I speak the language of the people. I’m not going to be a suit and tie man who only works 39 days of the year and spends the rest on vacation.” Along with the Conservatives’ proposed tax credit for commuters stuck with bridge tolls as well as an abolition of the carbon tax, Pratas’ main concerns are education and the environment.

Three-term Pitt Meadows councillor Bing, who is running for the Liberals, has raised questions about his NDP opponent Rosenau’s experience. Rosenau beat out Korleen Carreras for the nomination last June following a recommendation from Sather. Citing her inexperience in politics as a pitfall to his veteran knowledge in the riding, Bing says that he has his “finger on the pulse of the issues that matter to the community” while Rosenau has worked as a pharmacist in the Pitt Meadows region since November 2005.

Supporters of Rosenau argue that her scientific background should be seen as an advantage. She’s supported not only by her predecessor Sather but also NDP health critic Mike Farnworth. Farnworth stated in a press release that Rosenau’s experience as a health professional will be invaluable when forming government.

In the past, this riding has seen some close calls come election day with Sather beating out his then-opponent Liberal Ken Stewart by only 274 votes in the 2009 election. It will be interesting to see in two weeks time who comes out on top — and by how close of a margin.

Originally posted on The Vancouver Sun

Maple Ridge-Pitt Meadows Candidates

Maple Ridge-Pitt Meadows candidates make last attempt to sway voters

All four candidates in Maple Ridge-Pitt Meadows made their pitch to voters at the riding’s last all-candidates meeting at at Meadowridge Secondary school on May 2.

Questions posed by the Maple Ridge and Pitt Meadows Chamber of Commerce included whether the candidates would support the reinstatement of the business vote in municipal elections.

NDP candidate Elizabeth Rosenau, a pharmacist running for office for the first time, said that she didn’t have enough knowledge to answer fully but said that, “Businesses have every right to lobby politicians to have their needs met.”

B.C. Liberal candidate Doug Bing, a Pitt Meadows councilor of eight years, shot down the idea, stating bluntly, “Individuals vote, not businesses.”

Conservative candidate Manuel “Mike” Pratas was the only one who supported idea, saying that, “Small businesses are the backbone of this province … The B.C. Conservatives are all for trying to work with them.”

One questioner asked about job development, wondering how the Liberals could justify spending $17 million on job development when employment growth hasn’t changed much in the last year, according to Statistics Canada.

Bing pointed out that Statistics Canada posts job development numbers on a monthly basis, reflecting either plateaus or depressions in unemployment rates. Which is true enough as February’s highs were followed by March’s lows, contributing to an overall 7.2% unemployment rate in the province.

In terms of the economy and jobs, Rosenau was quick to point out that the NDP’s proposed diversified economy included “strategic investments” made in agriculture, forestry, film, television and the digital arts. According to Rosenau, “a strong economy is a diversified economy that doesn’t put all its eggs in the LNG basket.”

When asked about corporate business tax increases imposed by the NDP, Rosenau said that, “All we’re doing is rolling back those taxes to 2008 to where they were under Gordy Robson and nobody was talking about businesses fleeing our province in 2008.”

“In fairness to Gordy Robson I think she meant Gordon Campbell,” Bing remarked to audience laughter.

Rosenau sheepishly responded, ”That’s not the first time I’ve made that mistake, thanks Doug.”

In his closing statement, Green candidate Michael Patterson said he’d like to see more government investment in transit and cycling lanes.

Bing pushed for more focus on the economy and LNG development to fund the rest of the province’s necessities including health care and education. Rosenau admitted she hadn’t written a closing statement, wanting to head into the meeting with “an open mind to what we [the NDP] may have missed.” Pratas rounded out the closing statements with a mention of the Conservative-proposed tax credit for users of both toll bridges and ferries.

“You definitely will be voting for change because Michael Sather will be retiring,” Bing quipped at the meeting’s end.

This was the last meeting for all four candidates before the fast-approaching election date on May 14.

Originally posted on The Vancouver Sun


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