Five candidates who are hoping to represent the Nechako Lakes riding in Victoria held a debate in Burns Lake last week.
Hosted by the Burns Lake and District Chamber of Commerce and the B.C. Northern Real Estate Board, the event packed the Heritage Room on April 27, 2017.
Candidates talked about job creation, the possibility of a revenue sharing agreement in northwest B.C., post-secondary education in Burns Lake, trophy grizzly bear hunt and the forest products industry.
Candidates included incumbent John Rustad with the B.C. Liberal Party, Douglas Norman Gook representing the B.C. Green Party, Jon Rempel with the Libertarian Party, Anne Marie Sam representing the B.C. NDP and Al Trampuh, who’s running as Independent. Here are the highlights:
How will you support a fair revenue sharing of our resources?
Trampuh: Right now there’s a lot of development in mining and forestry and fisheries, but we’re not getting any return. We should have at least some share of that.
Gook: When we retain the quality aspects of slow growing wood, if we were able to totally redirect our silviculture systems to support those kinds of value added forestry, then we can get on with developing a truly sustainable value added manufacturing centre.
Sam: Yes, I do support it. We have a lot of resources in our communities and we should work with the regional district, all the mayors and all the communities that should be benefiting from the resources that are taken from our area.
Rempel: I support resource management share. There’s a lot of value and taxes that leave this area, and if Vancouver gets one less bridge because we want some of our money back, that’s their problem.
Rustad: There’s no question that communities need infrastructure, so if we can find a way to work together to bring this revenue into these communities, I fully support doing that.
The Burns Lake area is in the middle of a crises regarding the local delivery of post-secondary education. Our once thriving regional campus operated by the College of New Caledonia (CNC) is now struggling to survive. The Nicola Valley Institute of Technology (NVIT) has indicated they’re willing to work with our community to revitalize our local campus, but the decision to make these changes essentially is a matter for the provincial government. If elected, how will you work with the community to transition all aspects of our local post-secondary education services from CNC to NVIT?
Gook: Education is such an important thing to our communities. It’s not the politicians in Victoria that know what’s best for our communities. We need to set up the kinds of community consensus democracy councils where all of your ideas can be pulled together to get on with developing sustainability for your community.
Sam: We need to support what works for the community and I will work with the committee that has a work plan set up in this community.
Rempel: I have no good off the cuff answer for that, but basically the way I see it, the people in the community dealing with this know their needs best, and I would help you come up with the best solutions we can.
Rustad: When we think about post-secondary education, we need to bring everyone together to explore what the options are. The committee here in Burns Lake was looking at NVIT, we found a way to get them $50,000 to support that work, doing an analysis within the area. The solution needs to come from the community and I am prepared to back what the community decides.
Trampuh: When you think about what’s going on in Houston and Smithers, which is kind of a hub in that area, helping as a satellite campus, Smithers is very important to be able to consider how Houston would be balanced out. Rather than having a desire to have a new change, learn about the programs.
Do you support the grizzly hunt? Why and how should it be managed?
Rempel: I do support the grizzly hunt. I think it should be a regional thing. There’s tourism value there, but there really isn’t any bear watching here. If we ban the hunting of bears, I worry about people like ranchers and farmers that need to defend their herds.
Rustad: I support the grizzly bear hunt and I think it needs to be based on science. Hunting is an important part of the management tools that we have to provide the best outcomes we can for the wildlife that we interact with.
Trampuh: I don’t know the details, but let’s look at the numbers if it’s based on science. We need to have people who actually know how to do that, and then question the method. In this area, I’m not an expert, so I would be relying on someone else.
Gook: My personal opinion with regard to this backs up my party’s policy in terms of banning the grizzly trophy hunt.
Sam: We have made it very clear we will ban the trophy grizzly hunt. It’s all about finding the science behind it and working together for the betterment of the resource.
What ideas do you have to diversify the local forest industry to produce more local jobs?
Rustad: We’ve been actively trying to do that for quite some time. What we’re trying to do is support biomass energy options, but most importantly we need to manage the [wood] waste and find ways to utilize that waste.
Trampuh: I’d like to agree with what Mr. Rustad is saying. This is not my key strength but that’s why you would include people that have those ideas in the process.
Gook: There’s no such thing as waste in forest. Ecologically it’s very important. What’s wasteful is developing a forest industry based on an out of control model. If we don’t have a silviculture system that can supply high-quality wood into the future, we’re not going to have a value added manufacturing.
Sam: To diversify the local economy we need to have less exports, what we’re committed to do is that, if we’re building new schools and hospitals or any government buildings, to use wood as part of that building. I think also to have community-based management for the tenure that is out there.
Rempel: We need to look at the Liberal’s fibre action plan and tell them to sit down with industry stakeholders and ask why isn’t it working as good as it’s supposed to.
How will compare your party to the Liberal track record?
Gook: Our economics have to be based on ecological principals. Obviously we don’t have that. Employment based upon ecological destruction is nothing more than pushing on to future generations the lack of opportunity and debt.
Sam: With unemployment, the Liberals say that it’s lower. It’s lower in Vancouver, but it’s higher in the north, especially in smaller communities. There’s a lot of talk about lowering taxes, but we’re finding that they are increasing user fees. Under the Liberals we have 100 mill that have closed down, so why isn’t Christy Clark going to Washington to fight for our lumber and our jobs here in the north?
Rempel: I ran a business for 12 years, I was successful at that so I can’t see why I would’t be successful at this.
Rustad: Government doesn’t create jobs. It’s the private sector and it’s you folks. What government does is set the right environment so that you can be successful generating those jobs and hiring people. Since 2011 we’ve seen over 220,000 jobs created in B.C., and just about 10,000 jobs in forestry alone.
Trampuh: When a mill shuts down, who’s taking the credit for that? That’s the question that we want to ask. A few days ago, the Liberals were taking credits for jobs created, but when a mill shuts down, who takes the credit?