CANDIDATES hoping to represent the Skeena riding in Victoria sparred over the future of the region in an all candidates debate held in Terrace last night.
Incumbent New Democrat Robin Austin repeated his opposition to Enbridge’s Northern Gateway pipeline project, saying Alberta crude should not be shipped through B.C.’s north.
Austin said an NDP government would conduct its own review of the project but doubted it would change the NDP position that Northern Gateway not be built.
He conceded that the ultimate decision on the project rests with the federal government, but predicted there would be “a lot of civil disobedience here in B.C.” should it be approved.
BC Liberal candidate Carol Leclerc called Austin’s statements a “flip flop” in that the NDP opposed the federal review on one hand while advocating for one of their own.
BC Conservative candidate Mike Brousseau, questioned because of his personal opposition to Northern Gateway while his party is in favour, called himself a “maverick,” saying he would represent the wishes of riding constituents.
On the subject of liquefied natural gas (LNG), Leclerc said a re-elected BC Liberal government would create a Prosperity Fund fueled by LNG revenues.
Austin said a B.C. Liberal plan to tax an industry that has yet to see a project go ahead was an example of Premier Christy Clark “speaking before she thinks.”
Leclerc said NDP promises to review major projects would send a wrong signal.
“There’s a lot of stuff you’ve said ‘no’ to,” she told Austin at one point, giving Rio Tinto Alcan’s Kitimat aluminum smelter reconstruction project and a plan by B.C. newspaper company owner David Black to build a refinery near as examples.
Austin said the NDP does support mining and LNG, adding that industrial concerns don’t appear to be worried that his party is leading in the opinion polls.
“Even if an NDP government were elected, these projects would be well-regarded,” he said.
Austin also gave qualified support to the idea of an oil refinery, adding that it should be built, however, closer to the source of crude.
Regarding another resource-based issue, the carbon tax, Brousseau said taxing people and then giving the money to large corporations for carbon emission control projects they were already building was wrong.
“Families are being hurt by the carbon tax,” he said.
The debate, held at the Terrace Pentecostal Assembly, was sponsored by The Terrace and District Chamber of Commerce, the B.C. Northern Real Estate Board and The Terrace Standard.
Northwest Community College vice president Beverly Moore-Garcia was the moderator and Astral Media, CFNR and The Terrace Standard made up the media panel.
Skeena Valley Rotarians took written questions from the audience and the timing of candidate statements and answers was handled by Terrace Toastmasters.