Four of the five candidates for the Skeena-Bulkley riding election spoke in a public forum on Sept. 9 in Burns Lake via zoom.
The forum, which was was broadcasted live on the Burns Lake and District Chamber of Commerce Facebook page, featured incumbent Taylor Bachrach of the NDP, Conservative candidate Claire Rattée, Green Party candidate Adeana Young, and Christian Heritage Party candidate Rod Taylor.
Not present were Liberal candidate Lakhwinder Jhaj and People Party of Canada candidate Jody Craven.
Bachrach, who previously won the riding in 2019 and is the perceived leader in the polls once again, spoke about his efforts in his previous term to get the region through the pandemic.
“I was so honoured to work as part of the team in our region to get people and businesses the help that they needed as quickly as possible. I took their feedback back to Ottawa and pushed the government to make improvements to the COVID-19 programs, and ensure that everyone that needed who needed help during one of the most difficult times the country has faced got the help they needed.”
Bachrach cited getting paid sick leave for workers and a better wage subsidy program as some of the things he accomplished.
Rattée, the second place finisher in the 2019 election, went on the offensive about the lack of progress the NDP has made in the region. “After nearly two decades of NDP representation, they’ve made very little progress for our communities. We deserve a strong and passionate voice in Ottawa advocating for us, not propping up the Liberal government and paying us lip service during election time,” she said.
One of the main talking points of the forum was about economic priorities to help small businesses grow. Rattée referenced the provincially mandated vaccine passport as a hindrance to small business.
“As many people know, I am personally opposed to the vaccine passport because I believe it is really restrictive on small businesses especially ones that have been hit really hard like the restaurant sector. I think that working with the province to help them find a better way to achieve their goals to dealing with COVID-19 is important for a federal representative to do to ensure that these businesses don’t get hit any harder. One of our policy commitments is to provide any small business a 25 per cent tax credit on amounts up to $100,000 that Canadians invest in a small business over the next two years to create an incentive to invest their money and to help entrepreneurs rebuild our country.”
Taylor agreed, saying that the lock downs are hurting small business. “After next week, a lot of us who are not vaccinated will not be able to go into a restaurant in B.C.. The government says they want to help these businesses recover yet they’re keeping customers out of them.”
Bachrach’s answer was focused on helping businesses in the tourist sector given that they rely so heavily on Americans for their business and the border shutdown has hurt them. He also spoke about the climate crisis, “We need to ensure that if the government plays a role in stimulating the economy that we’re stimulating the new economy, investing in innovation, driving down pollution and leading the transition to a clean energy future.”
Young spoke about a potential tax shift in her answer. “I feel this is an opportunity to look at what a tax shift means and to use the information we have with Statistics Canada and come up with innovative and collective way to see what it looks like,” she said.
Another issue that was brought up to the candidates surrounded mental health, and the opioid crisis in the Northwest. Taylor spoke to his religious based policies, “I think there’s many pressures on young people these days, and a lot of it has to do with broken homes, violence on television, and a lack of purpose taught in schools where children are not taught that their sons and daughters of the most high God.”
Young outlined the Green Party’s plan to address the opioid crisis. “We are looking to decriminalize drugs and declare the drug poisoning crisis a national public health emergency, decriminalize the possession of illicit drugs for personal use and invest money in recovery programs and rehabilitation prams, as well as investing in Indigenous communities to help with their cultural ways of healing.”
Rattée explained that she is a recovered addict. She then outlined how important the issue was to her and how she wanted to change how the government approached the issue. “Every day we lose 17 Canadians to opioid related deaths and since the onset of COVID-19 there’s been an 89 per cent increase in that. I think it’s unacceptable and its time for government to step up and provide the necessary funding. Our government is committed to investing $325 million over the next three years to create 1,000 new treatment beds and 50 recovery centres.”
Bachrach spoke about the work he’s done in his previous term working with treatment centre projects. “There’s a huge need for treatment here in the Northwest, there are great projects being proposed; one in Terrace by the Northern First Nations Alliance, and close to Vanderhoof by Carrier Sekani, those are both projects that I’ve been supportive of as a member of parliament and I’m going to fight hard to ensure they get built.”
Rattée then pushed back as a rebuttal, stating that she’s lived in the area for 10 years with NDP representation and in that time, hadn’t seen the NDP MP be able to achieve anything to help the problem get better.
Bachrach responded saying that he disagreed with the statement, and referenced how many people in the area understand the problem as a health crisis, and how public health providers were working together with social services organizations with new resources to ensure people got the help that they needed.
In his closing statement, Bachrach laid out his stance on the importance of vaccination. “Given what’s happening in the fourth wave of this pandemic, I think we really need to refocus back on the situation we face when it comes to public health. In Northern B.C. were seeing an increase in COVID-19 cases, we see a vaccination rate that is less then the provincial average and we need to do more. So I want to encourage everyone out there, if you are eligible for the vaccine please consider getting vaccinated.”
Taylor’s closing statement was the opposite, saying the passports are a violation of rights. “We will roll back the cohesive, manipulative, useless, and harmful federal response to COVID-19. We will block efforts to impose a national vaccine passport, and defend the right of Canadians to make their own medical decisions.”
Young took the opportunity to thank the other Candidates, and singled out Rattée out of respect for reaching out to her via email to congratulate her on the campaign.
Rattée closed the forum by urging people to vote, and stating that change in federal representation was needed. “Are you prepared for another six years of deficits and deceit from your government, or are you ready for better, a fresh start for Skeena-Bulkley valley and for Canada.”
The latest poll update from 338canada.com on Sept. 9 has Bachrach with a healthy lead, projected to win 52 per cent of the vote, with Rattée in second place at 28 per cent. The federal election will take place on Sept. 20.
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