The All Candidates Forum hosted by Barriere and Area Chamber of Commerce in the Fall Fair Hall on Apr. 27 didn’t play to a full house but it was a pretty good turnout nevertheless.
The four candidates vying to replace Terry Lake are; BC Liberals Peter Milobar who is the sitting three-term mayor of Kamloops, and also owns and operates a private liquor store in that city; NDP candidate Barbara Nederpel, licensed practical nurse, who is the vice-president of the Hospital Employees’ Union and president of the Kamloops and District Labour Council; Greens candidate Dan Hines who is an Anglican Church priest, and is a founding member of the RareBirds Housing Co-operative; and Communist Party of BC candidate Peter Paul Kerek who has arts and journalism degrees and is a former president of the Kamloops and District Labour Council.
Moderator for the All Candidates Forum was Harley Wright, who kept everyone on time and on track while taking questions from the audience.
During opening statements Nederpel said “I have a long history of working for people and see a great need in this province for change.”
She also stated, “The BC Liberals have no plan – it’s status quo – it’s not going to get any better.”
Hines stated, “The land is important to me because I came from a ranching family and my father was a logger. I’m passionate about what goes on in the land – that’s why I’m a Green. A community like Barriere can produce electricity, such as biomass from the forest.”
He added, “We think we have something to offer and we are not into bashing all the other parties.”
Milobar stated that he feels an MLA should recognize that each community is unique.
“All have very different unique needs, such as Barriere, Little Fort Clearwater, Vavenby, Blue River. We have to make sure that the MLA will go to Victoria and tell them what Barriere needs, not what Victoria needs.”
Kerek said, “We need fundamental change to address poverty, homelessness, and exploitation of our land. In a country like this we have the wealth to take care of people that are in an impoverished society. I talk about ending homelessness and eliminating poverty.”
Questions from the floor included, asking would the candidates be in support of additional funding for Barriere’s First Responder’s small ambulance that was paged out 60 times last year and is supported by $8,000 from local fundraising?
Milobar said, “I am fully aware of the rural ambulance. We have to keep continuing to find those supports and to make sure it is the best that we can have it. I am fully on board to make sure the supports are there and there will be some improvements in the coming year.”
Hines noted, “It’s hard for rural communities to get the ear of government. I like that this community has taken the initiative.”
Nederpel stated, “ I am aware about paramedics stuck in Kamloops ER with a patient when they know Clearwater needs them. We are absolutely committed to getting the funding..
A question from the floor regarding the forest industry and softwood lumber asked, “What do you see your party doing different to manage the trade files?
Milobar stated, “Now we are dealing with Trump but we were also unable to get a deal with Obama. Premier Clark has been very definite about this… B.C. will shut the door on thermal coal coming out of the U.S. through the Port of Vancouver.”
He also noted, “The provincial government is trying to make sure we are protecting B.C.’s interests not just affecting forestry.”
Nederpel stated, “John [Horgan] said within 30 days of being elected he would be going to Washington. My concern is why hasn’t Christy Clark gone there? I don’t have any faith in Christy Clark.”
Hines noted, “This really comes under Federal jurisdiction. We are in a situation that seems to be changing the rules as they go along. I don’t have a solution – I think it will be going on for the next decade. Maybe buying some of our own product and using it here for our own domestic market.”
Kerek said, “My party supports the reinvigoration of value added products. We would rather see a much larger value added industry happening in B.C.”
Asking the audience for a question regarding agriculture, a local small rancher put the following question to the candidates. “Anyone who has flown across B.C. knows how much rock and mountain you fly over interspersed with narrow fertile valleys. What about Site C Dam and the flooding of that valley?”
Nederpel answered, “This is an unfortunate situation regarding Site C in B.C. BC Hydro has been wrong on its projections for a decade or longer. We need to send the BC Utilities Commission immediately to find out if this is right for us.”
Hines noted, “We would be better off to let it sit for now rather than finish it. We are going to be paying for this for decades. We need to reconsider. Hydro even says we aren’t going to need this much power for 20 to 30 years. What we need to do is ramp up smaller projects such as biomass and geothermal with smaller communities.”
Milobar said he was supportive of Site C. “Back in the day there were similar concerns about other dams and they have all proven to be good for B.C. It’s about trying to balance agriculture with the need for power. B.C. has done a good job of supporting the Agricultural Land Management. We can have both – we just have to be mindful of both accordingly. … You build it – you will grow into it.”
Kerek commented, “…It is shortsightedness. There is lots of fertile land that needs to be preserved. The need for that much power is still up for debate.”
An area resident asked what can be done about the long surgical wait times?
Nederpel stated that long surgical wait times are “all across the province – sometimes taking up to two years to get an MRI”.
Hines said, “We need to see where the weak links are. We need to do a lot more research into the system – this is an ongoing question for us. Just dumping money into the system is not going to do it. We have to do it wiser and better.”
Milobar said, “Critical needs have to be handled right away. There are 5500 hip and knee surgeries committed to this year. We have to keep finding innovative ways to move people through the system while dealing with the aging demographic of the population.”
Kerek said, “Our party isn’t afraid to say you need to increase taxes to be able to put funding into more resources.”
A question about what can be done regarding “bullying from BC Hydro had Nederpel saying, “Freeze the rates and do a full review.”
Hines noted that BC Hydro has done their own reviews and “this whole puzzle needs to be reconsidered”.
Milobar noted the TNRD has discussed this a number of times regarding BC Hydro’s two-tier billing in areas without natural gas. He noted there is a $200 amount on homeowner grants in this area to help with the problem. “I have no problem working with BC Hydro to address the two-tier billing system in rural areas as per the lower mainland.”
Other questions related to sizable donations, the cost of vehicle insurance with ICBC, and cariboo habitat concerns.
In all, the forum was organized, respectful and gave the audience plenty of opportunity to ask questions.