For Langford Coun. Lillian Szpak, an overpass at the Trans-Canada Highway at McKenzie Avenue is part of the traffic solution — not the only solution.
The three-term municipal politician is seeking to keep Esquimalt-Juan de Fuca a federal Liberal riding, and says traffic woes across the region need more than just more asphalt.
“Building an overpass is a 1960s solution, it’s just bigger, fatter roads,” Szpak said. “We want better than that. We want to give people choices. If they decide to get in a car, we want a good road network, not gridlock.”
Szpak, an avid cyclist, wants the federal government to funnel 100 per cent of gas tax funds to cities to help pay for infrastructure, which in the case of the riding, includes more bike lanes, dedicated transit lanes and rail. “Cities and regions can’t afford to put in this infrastructure, it can’t be done on the backs of local taxpayers,” she said.
Her first foray into federal politics, Szpak, 58, said she is doing plenty of door-knocking to raise her profile across a riding that stretches from Saanich to Port Renfrew, while still performing her Langford council duties.
People speak to her about transportation, affordable housing, jobs and the economy, she said, and the struggle of daily life raising a family. The recent family tax break announced by Prime Minister Stephen Harper pandered to an unrealistic 1950s stereotype, Szpak noted.
“This election isn’t about TV families,” she said. “This is about struggling working families who want solutions that work and don’t just sound good. There was nothing in that tax break that benefited the single parent.”
A military wife of a soldier who served in Afghanistan, Szpak said she has big shoes to fill as six-term Liberal MP Keith Martin retires from office. Conservative challenger Troy DeSouza came within 68 votes in 2008, but Szpak stressed that no two elections are alike.
“The time before (in 2006) the NDP came close. I take nothing for granted,” she said. “In this riding people vote for the person they trust. This riding wants someone who can represent them beyond partisan lines.”
Harper’s visit early in the campaign highlighted Esquimalt-JDF as an important riding, but Szpak decried Conservative spending priorities as “corporate tax cuts, a tough on crime agenda and fighter jets.”
“We want to take care of families,” she said. “This is a well-off country. We should be able to look after hard working families and the more vulnerable in society.”
Szpak said she agrees with her party’s action of helping take down the government after the historic ruling of contempt. People are concerned about the cost of an election, she said, but people don’t complain about having to vote.
“The election speaks to the openness and transparency in government that people want to see. It is a wake-up call for a government found in contempt,” Szpak said.
“The election is a reflection of what people want and need. It is about a significant loss in trust in the government. That is why we are going to the polls.”
Candidate at a glance
Home municipality: Langford
Occupation: Langford councillor
-Main campaign issues for Esquimalt-Juan de Fuca: Transportation, supporting military families and veterans, boosting local shipbuilding.