Economy the Focus of Candidates Forum
Prince George, B.C. – It was standing room only for the first all-candidates forum of the election campaign at the College of New Caledonia last night.
Organized by the Stand Up for the North Committee, invites were sent to all candidates in the Cariboo-Prince George and Prince George-Peace River-Northern Rockies ridings, though four of them did not attend.
Those included both Conservatives candidates – Bob Zimmer and Todd Doherty, along with Green candidate Elizabeth Biggar and Libertarian Todd Keller.
The evening was framed around the following question: “What are the key economic issues facing Canadians and what should be the direction of the economy?”
In the Prince George-Peace River-Northern Rockies (PG-PR-NR) riding, NDP candidate Kathi Dickie remarked “we’re blessed by our natural resources” but victims of the “boom and bust economy.”
In response to that, she said the government needs to “diversify our economy” with a focus on value added.
The other PG-PR-NR candidate, Liberal Matt Shaw, said things have changed dramatically in the region since the 1970s when “we’d get jobs in the mills, and bam, we were all members of the middle class.”
He added those days of easily buying homes, raising kids, and going on vacations has transitioned to a world today where families must work “flat out, paying massive taxes” to get by.
In Cariboo-Prince George, Liberal Tracy Calogheros noted unemployment in the region is above the norm at 7%, even higher for the youth and aboriginal populations.
Her solution was her parties recently announced infrastructure program, which she said “is historic, both in the amount of money that’s being proposed to be spent across the country ($125 billion) and targeted to be spent by Canadians in the manner in which they choose to spend it.”
Independent Sheldon Clare said the key to improving the economy is to diversify it.
“That is a critical element of what has to happen. Governments have traditionally put a lot of their eggs in one economic basket and we cannot continue to do that.”
As examples, he suggested the country take “a solid look at building up our non-renewables” and providing more support to forests and for agriculture.
Adam De Kroon of the Christian Heritage Party said it was time to “stop exporting raw resources (logs).”
“Currently B.C. exports a massive amount of raw logs to countries like China who then further refine these resources. We should do that here.”
NDP candidate Trent Derrick, said his party would lower the small business tax from 11 to 9 percent.
He also said Canada’s economy has become “a one trick pony” subjected to boom/bust cycles and as a solution suggested Canada focus on the value-added sector.
Green candidate Richard Jacques agreed diversification is the way to go, noting he’d seen the devastation mill closures had had in Fort St. James.
He also reinforced his parties opposition to pipelines.
Stand Up for the North has scheduled another all-candidates forum at CNC for October 7 when the focus will be on Bill-C51 and the rights of Canadians.
While Conservative Candidate Todd Doherty was invited to attend this debate, his team sent a reply (Sept. 5th) expressing his regrets for not being able to attend as he was attending other events in other communities within the riding. He is scheduled to take part in a debate at UNBC on October 8th at the Canfor Theatre at UNBC.