A Billion Dollar Question: Where’s the Pine Beetle Funding?
Prince George, B.C. – It’s day four of our special election feature examining where northern candidates stand on the issues facing their region.
Today’s question: During the 2006 federal election campaign, Stephen Harper promised $1 billion for communities affected by the mountain pine beetle crisis if elected yet only $200 million has been delivered since his election. How will you address that if elected? (answers in alphabetical order).
Prince George-Peace River-Northern Rockies:
Elizabeth Biggar, The Green Party: Yet another Harper lie. I would continue on with our platform and vision of transitioning our forestry industry into a renewable industry with green technology and infrastructure, with the hope that one day British Columbia can practice sustainable logging with our second growth forests and never again cut down old growth forest.
Todd Keller, Libertarian Party of Canada: Harper cannot deliver because Harper has indebted the country far too far now! I would back out of those kinds of fiscal promises of “helicopter drop funds” and let industry solve these kinds of problems. They know what’s best for their own industry, they should put forward a proposal to solve the problem, we’ll go from there.
Matt Shaw, Liberal Party: I will work tirelessly and forcefully to advocate for funds that will promote economic diversification in Prince George and the North. We’re not always going to have a constant and plentiful timber supply close to mills, and we need to begin preparing for this eventuality in earnest. The mountain pine beetle changed the balance of sustainability with regard to the timber supply, and we need a major infusion of money in our region to adapt to a different set of economic circumstances than the ones we have known over the last several decades.
*Note Conservative incumbent Bob Zimmer and NDP challenger Kathi Dickie in the Prince George-Peace River-Northern Rockies riding declined the opportunity to respond.
Tracy Calogheros, Liberal Party: I have been researching this in consultation with Mayors in the riding. I remember this pledge, and I cannot see where this promise has been fulfilled. I will champion this issue, seeking that the promise be fulfilled in a fashion that respects the expectations of residents and municipalities. One possibility is that we advance this money towards already announced programs in green jobs and technology, research and development, working as a coalition of municipalities and ridings (for this issue affects areas beyond Cariboo-Prince George). I believe this is an ideal opportunity to exercise our regional voice to obtain a solution that benefits the entire north. Clearly Mr. Harper has no intention of making good on this promise, and the missing $800 million is not in his, or any other Party’s, existing platform. With the economy in the fragile state that it is, we will have to work within the existing programs announced, seeking redress for this unpaid debt. I believe that there is a case to be made, one which I am eager to press. I also believe that there are sufficient funds in new program funding announcements to bring these dollars into the region, in the spirit in which they were intended, over several years.
Sheldon Clare, Independent: A campaign promise made nine years ago that remains unfulfilled is one to discuss with those who made it. I would be happy to bring a mailbag full of letters and deliver it by hand to Stephen Harper if the electorate is so inclined as to write those letters.
Adam De Kroon, Christian Heritage Party: I would consult with experts on the best way the federal government can help communities tackle the issue of mountain pine beetles. With the results of those discussions I would then know what is needed and how much money would need to be committed. I would then work to make the appropriate funding a reality.
Trent Derrick, NDP: Conservatives have a long record of making funding promises and then not fulfilling their commitments. We now know that the money never left Ottawa and it was just for a photo op. After nearly a decade of Conservative Government in Ottawa and over two decades of our riding having a Conservative MP, Canada and Cariboo-Prince George is ready for change.
We know our forests have changed. The NDP will bring a federal government ready to mitigate these challenges. The NDP is committed to fostering economic diversification for communities hit hard by the destruction of the mountain pine beetle. The NDP has an ambitious plan to invest in local infrastructure in every Canadian community by increasing transfers through the existing Gas Tax Fund. This will create jobs and economic development in our communities sustainably to cut Canada’s infrastructure deficit. We will invest in value-added sectors of our economy to support and promote forestry products in Canada and abroad. We will reduce the small business tax rate from 11% to 9% to support the businesses that are the backbone of our regional economy.
Todd Doherty, Conservative Party: With the leadership of Prime Minister Stephen Harper, our government has strongly supported the forestry sector. We have provided assistance to the provinces, stakeholders and Communities across Canada in responding to the challenges posed by the mountain pine beetle. The facts are that the federal Mountain Pine Beetle Program expired on March 31, 2010. The program provided needed assistance, for example to more than 80 First Nations and 26 non-First Nations communities to reduce the post-beetle forest fire threat.
Richard Jacques, The Green Party: I would reinstate investment in the mountain pine beetle crisis and direct funds towards active logging in the affected timber area; further, I would also accelerate the value added production in order to obtain the best value return to the local economy.
Tomorrow’s question: How would you propose to boost the economy in your riding? What would those changes be?