Strange debate for Nechako Lakes riding

Candidates repeatedly encouraged the public to check out their platforms online while delivering generalized statements

I hope you had a chance to watch the all candidates debate in Burns Lake to meet the Nechako Lakes candidates and find out where they stand on local issues.

But even if you were able to attend the debate, you might have left the Heritage Room with more questions than answers.

While most people were there to find out what the candidates plan to do if elected, candidates repeatedly encouraged the public to check out their platforms online while delivering generalized statements to almost every question. At times, some of the answers were incoherent and some candidates clearly lacked knowledge about important local issues.

Particularly disappointing were the answers about revenue sharing in northwest B.C. and post-secondary education in Burns Lake.

On the topic of revenue sharing, candidates simply stated whether they were in favour of it, without expressing any excitement or sense of urgency, and without specifying how they would fight for it. On the topic of post-secondary education, some of the candidates seemed unaware of the current issues in Burns Lake while others chose to sit on the fence.

There were a couple of times throughout the night when the debate became more lively, however – when talking about jobs and softwood lumber.

Anne Marie Sam, representing the B.C. NDP, was applauded after questioning Christy Clark’s efforts – or lack of efforts – in defending B.C. lumber.

“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?”

Al Trampuh, who’s running as Independent, also had a strong moment when he pointed out how government blames the economy when a mill shuts down but brags about jobs created.

“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?”

Not surprisingly, considering his 12 years of experience as MLA, incumbent John Rustad demonstrated a strong knowledge of local issues.

Jon Rempel with the Libertarian Party charmed the public with his self-deprecating humour, and Douglas Norman Gook, representing the B.C. Green Party, held industry and government accountable for what he considers to be an unsustainable extraction of natural resources.

The debate also had some awkward moments. Near the end, Trumpah asked Rustad if he considered himself a “just man.” He also asked Rustad why he was refusing to answer his questions. This was followed by a long period of silence since Rustad was not allowed to respond at that time and it was unclear (at least to me) what Trumpuh was referring to specifically.

I definitely left the room with more questions than answers.