Last Wednesday’s All-Candidates Meeting hosted by the Hope and District Chamber of Commerce saw Fraser-Nicola Liberal candidate Jackie Tegart, NDP’s Harry Lali, Social Credit’s Michael Henshall and Green Party’s Art Green duke it out.
Tegart defended her party’s record, Lali focused on attacking that record. Henshall and Green promoted their respective parties while exposing the flaws of all other parties. That evening saw moderator Ray Zervini ask questions that included health care, courts and natural resources.
Tegart acknowledged that she is on traditional Sto:lo territory. Tegart introduced her leadership experience, saying that she has served on school boards for 17 years, served as the president of BC School Trustees Association and has three terms in municipal politics.
“I ran in 2013 on a platform of jobs and a strong economy and fiscal responsibility,” said Tegart, who said B.C. currently has the strongest economy, has a fifth balanced budget, and she continues to think about communities’ needs.
Lali’s speech focused on “Liberal corruption.”
“Because 177 people gave $100,000 or more. In total, $55 million to the B.C. Liberal Party in the last 10 years and they got back $15 billion in contracts back,” said Lali. Lali said the benefits gained in contracts outstripped the money donated to the Liberals.
Green said he would protect Fraser River sockeye, stand against “giving away our natural resources” and the creation of value-added industries if it has an environmental cost. He said he supports Hope and Merritt on the issue of drainage and flood control, and supports keeping Hope’s hospital.
He also said he would stand with Lillooet and Lytton on the issue of waste composting facilities in proximity to urban areas, and Ashcroft-Cache Creek against expansion of wasteland and groundwater leaching.
Henshall said MLAs are not standing up for their consituents, failing their role.
“I want to be your representative to stand up for you,” said Henshall.
Question: Do you think that privatization of the medical system is good for British Columbia’s people?
Green said that his party feels that privatization is not a good thing, creating an “unfair pecking order for those in need of medical attention.”
Green said he would increase doctors and nurses. He also said the Greens have a plan to help doctors pay for their education, in exchange for a bond of service.
Henshall said if there is a demand for private health care, and it does not affect the public health care system, he could consider it if it opens more efficiencies in the public system. He said government’s role is to focus on providing sufficient health care, and that there is wastage in that system that causes money to not end up in staffing and facilities.
Lali said he would stop all privatization, saying there is little benefit. Lali said he would recruit more health care staff to staff facilities, including removing barriers for foreign doctors to practise in B.C.
He would also “cut the waste,” by firing all the “beancounters and PR people,” and put that money into hospitals.
Tegart did not take a stance on privatization.
Tegart said the Liberals have doubled the number of doctor training spaces. Tegart also said they have noticed doctors stay where they are trained. Hence, Tegart said they have moved the training locations throughout B.C. and saw, in Kamloops, that six out of six graduates are staying there. Tegart also said she is looking to double the number of nurses.
Question: What would you do to get the Hope courthouse open again?
Tegart kept terse on her response, “If the courthouse is an issue in the community, then I certainly would advocate very strongly to have it reopened or relocated to Hope.”
Lali said courthouses should never been closed. He said the reason why the Liberals laid off 15,000 government jobs was because they needed billions of dollars in tax breaks. He said he would fight to retain services in the area, so that people don’t have to go to Chilliwack or Abbotsford to get services.
Green said he would advocate for an expanded court system because of growing need for them. He said part of his plan focuses on pre-emptive measures, such as a guaranteed income, to avoid people with needs from turning to crime.
Henshall said as an MLA, he will listen to his constituents. His argument centred around how B.C. can pay for expanded services, especially while juggling health care and education needs.
“The truth is that we’re going to be bankrupt. I’m trying to advocate for your children, for the people that are bearing the costs, that are trying to make ends meet,” said Henshall.
Question: How do you propose to bring industry back into our communities, specifically Hope?
Green said he will focus on clean and renewable energy, and said they are in negotiations to build solar farms through the drybelt region, which will create employment and bring a new tax revenue. Green said he will increase the education budget by $2.1 billion, focusing on innovation.
Henshall said he would focus on keeping corporate taxes low and reducing over-regulation to ensure business will stay in B.C. He picked up a bottle of Nestlé water and said royalties for water extraction and stumpages are too low.
Lali said government has to protect the jobs that are out there. He highlighted that he saved 300 jobs from the J. S. Jones mill closure in Boston Bar in 2000, which the Liberals closed when they got into office.
Tegart said Fraser-Nicola has seen challenges such as the mountain pine beetle, lowered annual allowable cuts and a new softwood lumber tariff from the United States. She added that a B.C. envoy is in discussions with Washington, D.C., on the tariff and Premier Christy Clark has also asked Prime Minister Justin Trudeau to stop all thermal coal export through the Port of Vancouver from the United States, in a tit-for-tat move.
Question: What is your stance on the Kinder Morgan pipeline?
Tegart said they support the Kinder Morgan pipeline expansion, and said they made five conditions that include environmental, economic and First Nations benefits. She said that has been signed off even though many detractors thought it would not, and that rural communities will get benefits in jobs and a $1 billion in green project.
Lali said the Liberals had four years to build the pipeline, but they have not. He wonders what guarantees residents will have that the pipeline would go forward in the next four. On the five conditions, he said those were pre-agreed to before it was announced. He added that jobs promised will go to Chinese and American workers, and few jobs will go to Fraser-Nicola residents.
Henshall said the pipeline will bring short-term jobs, a risk of environmental disaster and that the project will not benefit B.C. residents. He then turned to attack the carbon tax.
Green said they are against the pipeline, saying that bitumen is a toxic substance and it will increase larger tanker traffic on the west coast of B.C. He highlighted that there is a prediction that there will be one spill in the next 100 years.
He said bitumen is highly subsidized and bitumen companies will not exist without the subsidies. He added that few jobs are full-time.
He then attacked the Liberals.
“One week, Kinder Morgan gives a $670,000 political donation to the B.C. Liberal Party, and next week, their five conditions are met and they OK the pipeline,” said Green.
Question: How do you plan to help housing for low-income residents and creating affordable housing?
Henshall said he is a realtor and a property manager. He said immigration, inter-provincial migration and Syrian refugees have put a pressure on the housing market. He said he will examine the inefficiencies in the system to expand housing supply.
Green said the problem in housing is supply and will provide housing first for homeless earners, subsidized and low-cost housing for low-income people. He said they would also increase the foreign buyers’ tax and apply it throughout B.C.
Lali said the NDP will build 140,000 new housing units with social and co-op housing. He highlighted that as MLA, he built the $2.5-million Joan Greenwood Place.
Tegart said the Liberals have created close to 24,000 units of affordable housing and have helped people with rental assistance, subsidized housing and seniors with their shelter aid for elderly renters.
They have also committed $920 million for new, affordable units.
Question: Recruiting teachers in Hope is challenging — how are we going to get more teachers, especially with the smaller class sizes?
Candidates mostly took this question as how they would handle the education file, and few replies directly answered the question.
Tegart said they will continue the $9-million Rural Education Fund, undertake a review of funding, and $5 million in teacher retention for rural school districts. They will also look at teacher loan forgiveness programs.
Lali attacked the Liberals and said when he was in government, they opened 198 schools. He said he will reverse the Liberals’ closure of schools and put more money into schools.
Henshall said they would do a forensic audit of the Ministry of Education, and find out what is lacking, and provide “simple financing.”
Green talked about how he would develop the education system.