On a sunny Saturday in Ladner, over 150 Delta residents attended an all-candidates forum to find out who can best represent the values of Delta residents, and who will stand strong for our farmland, fisheries and way of life.

Dogwood’s organizing team in Delta joined forces with Citizens Against Port Expansion and other groups to organize this important event. Jeremy Leveque from the NDP, Carla Qualtrough from the Liberal Party and Anthony Devellano from the Green Party all showed up. We left an empty chair for our current conservative MP Kerry-Lynne Findlay (who just happened to be across the parking lot sipping tea at a senior’s centre open house, but declined to participate in our public debate).

The crowd was understandably upset to see the vacant seat. It represents a trend we’re seeing all across the province, and indeed the country. Conservative MPs are not showing up for their constituents.

I grew up in Tsawwassen, and like my friends and neighbours, I was proud of many things in my community: the beaches where I spent my summer, the fresh food grown and gathered within kilometres of my house, the important bird habitat that people from across the province are drawn to. But since I was a kid, port expansion has seriously changed this landscape.

The people who care about Delta know that one big step toward restoring our way of life comes from electing a new MP on Oct. 19.

Carla Qualtrough addressed a key concern for Delta residents: Port Metro Vancouver is not looking out for the best interests of our comminty. We need a stronger voice at the table, because the impacts of port activity affect Delta and its people the most.

Jeremy Leveque questioned the dichotomy of environment versus economy. He said it’s better for Delta’s economy to produce local food and conserve water for the long term. That we need to serve community interests before we commit to new export projects out of Delta.

Anthony Devellano assured Delta residents he would stand up against free trade agreements that could compromise local communities’ capacity to choose how they develop without fear of being sued by foreign corporations.

All candidates agreed we need a federal government who will give us a full environmental assessment process worthy of Delta and other municipalities. This is something we’ve been pushing for on the Beyond Coal campaign since its inception. If we can change our government on Oct. 19 and elect candidates who better reflect the views and interests of British Columbians, we can move toward a port accountable to the people, and an assessment process that ensures health and safety for all.

On Oct. 19, Delta residents will join the rest of the province and country at the polls to make sure the voices of our communities are heard in Ottawa. Our team will be working hard to get these residents out to the polls to make sure we elect an MP who represents the values of our community.

For people concerned with local food security, farmland, fisheries and the landscapes we call home here in B.C., the votes may not go to candidates represented by empty chairs in candidate forums across the province. If they won’t turn up for us in our own communities, how can they stand up for B.C. in Ottawa?