The three MLA candidates for the Skeena riding took part in a second all-candidates forum, hosted by the Terrace Standard on Wednesday, Oct. 14.
The Terrace forum was held in the Terrace Standard office with no members of the public present, to ensure physical distancing could be maintained. The event was live-streamed through Facebook and the Terrace Standard’s website and was moderated by Terrace Standard reporter Jake Wray.
The even was held one week after Skeena candidates participated in a similar forum in Kitimat, hosted by the Kitimat Chamber of Commerce on Oct. 7.
Candidates answered questions submitted by by Skeena community members, the Terrace Chamber of Commerce, CFNR News and CFTK TV News.
Topics for the event included the tourism industry during and after the pandemic, diversifying the economy, youth entrepreneurship, mental health supports, and systematic racism within the RCMP to name a few.
One topic that garnered a fair amount of attention was whether the candidates were for or against the new inland port train trans-loading facility being proposed for Terrace.
Independent Candidate, Martin Holzbauer, said that he could see both sides to the argument. However, he said he couldn’t make an informed choice yes or no without reading up and doing more research on the proposal.
BC NDP candidate, Nicole Halbauer, said she did not feel she could answer yes or no to the question, as it isn’t her job to make that decision, but to listen and understand and support the needs and interests of the community.
“At the end of the day, I’m confident that the city of Terrace will be, you know, taking all of this information in and our City Councillors — who are elected to make this decision — will make the best decision possible for all community members,” she said.
BC Liberal candidate, Ellis Ross, however, said he was for it, as it would help provide jobs for those in Terrace who don’t want to or are unable to travel to Kitimat or Prince Rupert or elsewhere, especially in the winter.
He added that Kitimat has the tax base from local industry and Rupert has a tax base from ships and ports. However, Terrace is often stuck in the middle, getting the influx from both other cities but not always reaping all thesame benefits, and that “Terrace needs something to help subsidize their tax base.”
Another question involved what the candidates would do to address the growing tension and conflict between Indigenous and non-Indigenous communities that both rely on fish and wildlife species for social, cultural, food usage in a way that is fair and equitable.
Halbauer said the community and stakeholders need to take a look at what is actually causing the salmon depletion in the area, and come together to collaborate and look at solutions that work for everyone.
“We’re fishing deeper, we’re fishing different species, we’re disrupting the food chain,” she said. “All of these things need to be addressed at an international level to ensure we have salmon stocks in the future.”
Ross agreed that it’s an international issue, and that local stakeholders need to come together to discuss and come up with a plan, as that’s often the only way governments will listen and respond to a community’s issue.
“We’ve actually got three user groups: we’ve got the commercial fishermen, we’ve got the sport fishermen, and we’ve got the First Nation fishermen,” he said, “and we all fight for what’s left after the international fishery takes its share.”
Holzbauer agreed with Ross and Halbauer’s statements, and said that it’s important to find the common ground between those who use the resources. He acknowledged that the fishing industry was a larger resource in the past, one that has diminished over the decades, and that it’s absolutely something that needs to be addressed.
The event ended with the candidates’ closing statements, each promising to help Skeena if elected, in their own, personal way.
“If the people of Skeena choose to elect me, I will do the best to represent them — all of them — but also I think diversity in not just jobs, local economy, but also within all of us is important,” Holzbauer said. “And like I said before, it makes the world a much more interesting place to live in.”
Ross concluded by emphasizing his focus on resource development and the economy, as well as the need to focus on mental health supports throughout the pandemic and going forward.
“I believe with a strong economy we can get those good-paying jobs for our region and take care of those who need it,” he said. “In conclusion, I want to ask a question back to Skeena: what do you want Skeena to be?”
Halbauer said, if elected, she would work in collaboration with all community members and local stakeholders to make sure the issues addressed at the event, along with the others in her and BC NDP’s platform, are dealt with as promised.
“I spent a lot of my life having my voice silenced, and I will not be a part of doing that to anybody else,” she said. “If you have an issue, you can come to me. I’m here to serve. I’m here to work hard for you.”