Despite the fact it was the same night as a Canuck’s playoff hockey game, the May 3, All Candidates Forum at the Fall Fair Hall in Barriere was well-attended.
Moderator for the evening was Barriere resident Harley Wright, who did an admirable job of keeping the forum running smoothly and on track.
All four Kamloops-North Thompson candidates were in attendance; Independent John Ford, BC NDP Kathy Kendall, BC Conservative Ed Klop, and BC Liberal Terry Lake.
The forum started with each candidate given three minutes for an opening statement before questions were taken from the floor. Names were drawn from a hat to determine the order of speakers.
Ford was first up, saying he had three reasons for deciding to run in the election. “One; I believe democracy in general is in crisis and needs some improvement. Two; I believe to improve, we need someone who does not have any political background to be elected….. And three; B.C. is experiencing a lot of large corporations that are exporting the resources of B.C…” Ford noted he believed that B.C. resources should be used in B.C. to create jobs here.
Ed Klop was next, saying “This is all about a job interview for someone to represent you for the next four years. There have been a lot of good things done and a lot not so good. Barriere is a unique rural community, but not so unique that there are not more rural communities like this one. We’ve made a platform that we want to identify what we want to do to increase population and retain young people with jobs, and to make sure that these rural communities have the support from the BC Conservatives as a government to retain these.”
Terry Lake who is running for re-election said, “During the past four years I have worked hard to develop relationships with community leaders, and have been able to bring significant funding into Barriere for the Bandshell and the North Thompson Agriplex. I also chaired the Ranching Task Force which had positive impact to ranchers in the Valley.”
Lake also noted that as Environment Minister, his ministry’s review of the carbon tax will result in removing the tax from marked fuel in October for ranchers.
“Today’s BC Liberals and Christy Clark believe in growing the economy. We paved the way for re-opening Canfor, Vavenby, and are working with Gilbert Smith who currently have 75 people employed at the mill and 45 working out in the bush.”
Kathy Kendall said, “I’ve been attending events and knocking on doors for the last 18 months. I’ve met some people who are doing quite well, but I’ve also met some who are struggling.”
She noted poverty and student debt are an economic problem, and said she constantly sees our raw logs being shipped down the highway, while she sees unemployment in Blue River, Barriere and Vavenby.
“Our B.C. Families Plan will provide $829 for each child under 18.”
She noted that under the BC NDP government top corporations and banks will all pay “a little more in tax”, as will wage earns of $150,000 per year or more.
Questions from the floor started with Mel Schmidt who asked for the Auditor General to put out budget reports.
Lake answered that the Auditor General already puts out reports, and that the present BC Liberal government put out a balanced budget this year. He also noted that although the provincial debt will rise by 18 per cent, the percentage is much lower than Canada or the U.S., and that B.C. retains it’s Triple A credit rating.
Klop said that Alberta paid off their debt, while the BC Liberals increased theirs.
“Bring someone in who will spend a little smarter,” said Klop, “How many of us want to get rid of that noose around our neck?”
Kendall said that if the BC NDP is elected they plan to move the election date to the fall, so that there would be time to debate the budget before elections. Of the current budget presented she said, “It’s not balanced, it truly has a deficit. It’s equally true that the revenue projections in the Liberal budgets are not true.”
Ford answered, “Someone should be watching the Auditor General for awhile. The province is being taken over by debt. We need to restructure the budget, start using our own resources.”
Ford also noted that he believed “some sort of equity swap” should be instigated, “giving people shares of our resources to take care of the debt. This is probably one of the top priorities for the province right now”.
Carmen Smith asked Kendall, “I would like to know specifically what logs are being exported out of this valley? You’re making a false statement there.”
Kendall answered, “I see them going down the valley on trucks.”
Ford noted, “I think the issue is they are being exported as raw logs. I don’t track where they are going. Maybe we could use some of the logs to build log homes.”
Klop answered, “Logs are being trucked further to feed the mills. There is a huge distance involved to get these logs to the mills now. We need some fresh blood to keep the mills alive.”
Lake said to export raw logs you have to go through a stringent test. “As far as I am aware, there are no raw logs being exported out of the Interior of British Columbia. Raw logs are often sold off of private land. If we stopped that it would put a lot of people out of work. There is a lot of fiber out there for those who want it.”
Mike Fennell asked the candidates what each would do to bring jobs into this area, and what they would do about getting the Louis Creek industrial Park running?
Lake answered, “It’s a challenge to attract industry to rural areas.” He commented that hearing a party leader like Adrian Dix speak against the Kinder Morgan project “sends a chill” to the business community. “We do have busy sawmills in British Columbia, but we need to diversify, and industry such as mining will bring in jobs.”
Klop said, “We need to identify rural British Columbia and what we can do to increase the population base. As the population declines so do the communities.”
Kendall noted, “Jobs and the economy are number one with the NDP. Our skills training programs will be there for the 80 per cent of jobs coming up that will require skills training.” She also said that should she be elected as MLA she will “make sure the Yellowhead Mine has the ability to go ahead”.
Ford stated, “We need to focus on farming, log home building, tourism, and include First Nations. B.C. has a lot of different options. I don’t think we need to be focused on resource development only. Yes we need jobs, yes we need the economy, but there are options.”
Dave Baines asked, “LNG comes from shale, but needs to be extracted by fracking. Where is the energy going to come from to liquefy natural gas?”
Lake said, “Wherever possible we are going to use clean energy to produce natural gas. Companies will probably have to use the gas to produce it…” He noted that some of this process will most likely produce greenhouse gas, but those companies will have to pay carbon tax that will create a prosperity fund to address this, and it will also fund health care, education, etc.
Klop said, “I spent 10 years in Alberta, and probably today they still have the wealthiest citizens in Canada.” He noted that natural gas uses a whole difference process to extract than oil, and that it “uses tremendous energy”. He also stated that due to the high cost of producing LNG, if there are not enough markets for the product “it’s a bust”.
Kendall said, “The LNG industry is new to B.C. We’ll have to look at fracking itself. I think it’s very important that when we look at these new projects, is we are going to have a very rigorous environmental assessment.”
Ford said, “ Plans [for marketing LNG]are based on market price, and a market price moves. Alberta is running huge deficits, so what’s wrong there? Why not build a foundation for our own province so that future generations can use their own product instead of exporting it.”
Bill Kershaw asked what the parties would do about fixing the Yellowhead Highway and the left turn lane at Little Fort?
Ford said he thought people should slow down on the highway when going through towns and that with the current provincial debt, where is the money going to come from to fix the roads?
Kendall stated that after moving to Kamloops in 1985 she doesn’t think the roads have gotten much better. “If we announce we are going to do it, we would follow through.”
Klop said he felt all infrastructure is important. “A government who’s busting at the seems with debt is having a hard time with improving infrastructure.
Lake answered, “Statistics in every study shows that roundabouts are safer. The Clearwater roundabout has a local contractor who gets $2.2 million worth of work.” He noted that although the Ministry of Transport is limited in its funds, highway work completed by the BC Liberals in recent years includes major pojects such as Pigs Corner, and Walterdale Road, and that he has advocated for the Little Fort left turn lane.
One member of the audience asked, “If you form government, would you roll out a 10 year contract for teachers?”
Ford answered, “I think this is not the time to be giving 10 year contracts. Before signing I would recommend a full review of what education is getting us in this province.”
Kendall said, “The 10 year contract deal was floated to government. There was no consultation with the teachers. The 10 year deal is not on the table, it is not realistic.”
Klop said, “The 10 year contract would bring some stability to the profession and to the students, …a promise to minimize the striking. A lot of teachers are frustrated with the union dictating; the province is the employer. I think the province needs to say, “this is the way it has to be”. Right now it’s almost like we are being held hostage by these strikes.”
Lake stated, “There are a lot of teachers who support the BC Liberals. Teachers deserve to be well paid, but at the same time we have to be realistic. A 10 year agreement is a vision, students could go from grade 2 all the way to grade 12 without a strike. Don McRae, the Minister of Education, is a teacher… I think we should have confidence in the system.”
An audience member asked, “What is your commitment to finishing the Royal Inland Hospital? With a new government are we going to get phase two and three? We lost the cancer center to Kelowna when the NDP came into power before.”
Lake answered, “The $80 million phase one is started, and I am proud to say our government is fully committed to the $400 million improvement to the facility.”
Klop said, “We’re fully committed. Royal Inland is in need of some clean up. These investments should have been done years ago. These are capital expenditures but they need to be pushed forward.”
Kendall stated, “The NDP is fully committed to the redevelopment to Royal Inland.” She also noted her government is going to extend care in communities by training people to take positions in obstetrics, etc.
Ford said, “The hospital does need upgrades and development, especially for an elderly population. These services need to be in place. I think the hospital should go ahead, but how are you going to pay for it?”
After the question period, each candidate was given three minutes to make closing statements.
Kendall said, “The NDP supports the development of natural resources and a strong environmental assessment. We’ve had 12 years with the Liberal government, but we still have unrest with the teachers. They’ve sold off BC Hydro and BC Rail, and our children’s education is being put at risk. Income inequality is worse than ever in the history of the province… If you’re still asking about why there can’t be a change, it’s time for a change.”
Lake closed by saying, “We’ve worked hard over the past four years…. In the face of a fiscal downturn all over the world, I think we are doing very well in British Columbia… We need to support professionals to come and work in our small communities. I hope you’ll recognize that I have worked hard for you, and I will continue to work hard for you.”
Klop said, “Do we want more of the same, or do we want better? The BC Conservatives stands for better, smaller government with fiscal responsibility. We don’t want to pay more taxes. The NDP will double the debt, the Liberals have added to that. It’s easy to spend money – it takes a Conservative to spend wisely. We need to put in the programs that are needed, but we need to do that with real taxes, not borrowing to do it.”
Ford said, “I don’t believe that voting on one day every four years is democracy. I don’t have political experience, but I think that could be a positive. Right now we only have one half of the voting population taking part. I think the Interior here has been neglected – send someone new.”
The candidates then took the final 30 minutes to meet and greet with the public.
The All Candidates Forum was hosted by the North Thompson Star/Journal.
Here is the contact information for the Kamloops-North Thompson candidates:
• Terry Lake, BC Liberal, teamterrylake.ca, 250-376-1746, 703 Tranquille Road, Kamloops.
• Kathy Kendall, BC NDP, kathykendall.bcndp.ca, 250-554-4490, 4-177 Tranquille Road, Kamloops.
• Ed Klop, BC Conservative, 778-220-3380,
324 Victoria Street, Kamloops.
• John Ford, independent, 250-577-3458, xparty.ca.
All B.C. voters can vote at any advance voting place in the province from Wednesday, May 8, to Saturday May 11, between 8 a.m. and 8 p.m. All B.C. voters can vote at any general voting place in the province on Tuesday, May 14, between 8 a.m. and 8 p.m.
All voters must prove their identity and residential address to receive a ballot or to register when voting.
A list of acceptable types of identification is available from Elections BC online at elections.bc.ca or by calling 1-800-661-8683.
For more information on the 40th provincial election, go online to elections.bc.ca.
Look for the Elections BC advertisement in this publication with polling station information.