Packed House For Cariboo-Prince George Debate
Prince George, B.C. – The candidates contesting the riding of Cariboo-Prince George in the October 19th federal election were invited to a public candidates debate co-hosted by the Prince George Public Library and Daybreak North. The theme of the night was Local Issues, Local Representation, and the Keith Gordon Room at the Bob Harkins Branch was packed with a standing room only crowd.
The candidates who attended and answered questions in four categories were Tracy Calogheros (Liberal), Sheldon Clare (Independent), Adam De Kroon (Christian Heritage), Trent Derrick (NDP) and Richard Jaques (Green Party).
Todd Doherty (Conservative) and Gordon Campbell (no affiliation) did not attend.
Question: What role do you believe the federal government has, and will you have, in ensuring a disaster like the one at Mt. Polley doesn’t occur again?
Sheldon Clare: Track the record of companies that are allowed to develop resources, assess a corporate tax penalty for bad behavior and give a corporate tax break for good behavior. That would help with the economy as well as protect the environment.
Trent Derrick: Be more pro-active in developing resources and bring back support staff to assist in the monitoring, inspection and scientific experts involved in a development to prevent such disasters, “all of which have been cut under the Harper government. The NDP will bring these back.”
Tracy Calogheros: Canada is a resource economy and “we have to look at a triple bottom line and in order to do that we have to look not only at the fiscal component of success, but also the social and ecological components of success.” Get everybody at the table and talking, “and if you’re going to have a conversation you’d better base it on real science.” The federal government has to re-fund science.
Richard Jaques: Regarding the Mt. Polley spill he says the federal government looks after environmental regulation and it has to re-instate better regulations to look after our waterways, our fish and endangered wildlife. “The Green Party is looking toward putting back our environmental regulations where they belong to protect our environment.”
Adam De Kroon: Believes in implementing fines for corporations that pollute the environment. “I believe that Mt. Polley could have been avoided had they taken proper care of it.”
Question: What role do you believe the federal government should play in assisting BC to address the negative impacts the mountain pine beetle epidemic has had on the forest sector?
Trent Derrick: “The Harper government promised a billion dollars which was never received, we got about two hundred million dollars but part of that was we got to develop some strategies and listened to a bunch of experts on what we can do. Unfortunately a lot of those got put onto the shelf.” Get the stakeholders back to the table, start listening and implement the strategies and implement funding for manufacturing innovation and research.
Tracy Calogheros: Where the federal government fits in is looking at diversification, both within the industry and away from the industry. The government can come in with research and funding for tech start-ups, innovation, green energy. It’s about bringing money to the table to free up those people within the communities that have always worked with wood to find new ways to work with wood.
Adam De Kroon: Funding is definitely the key and economic diversification will help lessen the impact that the pine beetle will have on our forest industry. “Also the company I work for, West Fraser, we do use pine beetle wood. We turn it into hog and other materials that are used for various things, including MDF.”
Sheldon Clare: The role of the federal government is to make sure that the monies needed to educate people in these communities is properly allocated, and not just sent to the provinces for distribution without some more direction on those transfer payments. Education is really the key here.
Richard Jaques: In 2006 the federal government promised a billion dollars and about one-fifth of that actually arrived in the Cariboo. “When the funding didn’t arrive the trees died. They lost their value over time.” “To re-invigorate the industry we’re going to have to process this wood. Deadwood and dust are dangerous and “we don’t want a repeat of Lakeland or Burns Lake.”
Question: What do you plan to do as a follow-up to the Tsilhqot’in decision to recognize title for First Nations. Furthermore, do you plan to fully implement the 94 recommendations of the Truth and Reconciliation report?
Tracy Calogheros: True consultation and negotiation is the only way forward when it comes to any sort of resource or land use development in areas that are unseeded by treaty. “From a federal perspective I think it goes back to building trust. There’s a long history of mistrust between First Nations and government, as well as industry.” The Liberal party agrees with the bulk of the Truth and Reconciliation report and is interested in implementing its recommendations as well as moving ahead immediately with the Missing and Murdered Women inquiry.
Sheldon Clare: In the Chilcotin there is a lot of mistrust, anger and concern among all parties and a lot of confusion about what the decision means. There’s a real need for the federal government to look into building bridges with the peoples there about what the decision means for everyone affected. “There are a lot of people who are concerned about their guide outfitting operations, their commercial operations and their relationship with First Nations in those areas. The First Nations people are also concerned about how they can develop their title and be able to turn this into economic benefit for their communities.”
Richard Jaques: “The Supreme Court said in nine separate decisions the word is consent, not consultation. You must seek their consent in order to move forward with any resource management.” First Nations in Cariboo-Prince George represent 16.9 percent of the voter base. “These people cannot be forgotten, their vote will carry the day.” On the Missing and Murdered Women’s inquiry if elected, on the first day I would implement the 94 recommendations.
Adam De Kroon: Says there has been a canyon between the federal government and First Nations and the first step is to re-establish communication, listen to concerns and take them seriously.
Trent Derrick: The First Nations leaders want to be recognized as equals. They have won nine court decisions but there’s been no action on those decisions. Tom Mulcair says he will meet nation to nation and will raise funds for education for First Nations. “We want to implement the Inquiry for Missing and Murdered Women within the first hundred days. Why a hundred days? Because it takes time to do things right. If we’re going to do this we need to do it properly.”
Question: What is your plan for long-term sustainable investment in local infrastructure?
Richard Jaques: We are going to take 2% of the GST and convert it into $6.4 billion annually and send it to municipalities for infrastructure upgrades to sewer, water, streets. We’re dedicating more money to provincial treasuries to upgrade provincial highways.
Trent Derrick: We’re taking one cent from the Gas Tax to re-invest $1.5 billion into infrastructure. How it will be spent is up to provinces and local municipalities.
Sheldon Clare: There’s a need for infrastructure spending in rural areas as well as the cities in the riding. I’m prepared to work with anyone who is prepared to look at proper funding models to make sure that our infrastructure needs are met.
Adam De Kroon: We need a government that will ask communities what they need, what is most important to them.
Tracy Galogheros: We are interested in empowering communities to be able to do the projects that they know are going to serve them best. So infrastructure funding at $60 billion over the next 20 years, directed to municipalities to be governed by the individuals in the communities and the organizations.
Question: Why has no one developed a plan to eliminate homelessness?
Adam De Kroon: Increase the federal Income Tax exemption for low income individuals, all the way up to people who earn $30 to $35 thousand per year.
Tracy Calogheros: Poverty is systemic and we’ve downloaded a lot of the responsibility for providing social supports to charities and volunteers. The responsibility on the federal level is to properly fund the social infrastructure to help people get to the point where they can start to break the cycle of poverty.
Richard Jaques: The number of homeless seniors has gone up to 5.8% and this is unacceptable. We’re looking at a guaranteed livable income. We’ll roll the CPP back, roll the Old Age Security back and combine that with the CPP. Along with that is the Old Age Guaranteed Income Supplement and roll that back into the CPP. Put together it works out to about $18,000 a year.
Trent Derrick: We need to bring all stakeholders together including those facing a housing crisis. The NDP plan is to build 10,000 low income housing units for seniors, and place 3400 beds for women fleeing abuse and re-fund the programming. We also are looking at building universal Pharmacare. Right now people are choosing between life-saving medicine, paying the rent or paying for food. As well we’re looking at a mental health strategy for youth and invest in health care services for youth.
Sheldon Clare: Education and mental health services are needed but we need a way that we can pay for the services. If we create deficit spending all we’re going to be doing is passing on that debt to our descendants. Veterans are also affected by this crisis and there needs to be a way that their needs are also met.
Question: What is your position on the re-instatement of the long form census?
All candidates expressed their desire to have the long form census re-instated immediately, saying it is absolutely necessary in determining what the needs are and allocating funding accordingly.
Question: What is your plan or commitment to remain a resident of Prince George or other parts of the riding while you are an active representative in Ottawa?
Adam de Kroon: I will stay here in the riding. I have lived in Quesnel almost all of my life. I will stay here.
Richard Jaques: I do plan on residing in the riding, “not near a golf course near the U.S. border. However if you do want to represent the riding you could at least show up for a debate.”
Tracy Calogheros: “I hunt here, I fish here, I jet boat here, I’m not leaving. I love this area and the reason I’m running this time around is because I couldn’t take not having a representative anymore. I absolutely am not going anywhere. Yes I would probably rent an apartment in Ottawa. But my home base is here.”
Trent Derrick: I love this riding, have investments and two businesses here. “I’m going to take that sense of pride (to Ottawa). I’m going to stand up and say we live in the best riding in Canada and this is what we have to offer.” “Am I going to live here? Of course, it’s a beautiful place.”
Sheldon Clare: I think it’s pretty easy to say that yes, this is my home. I’m not going any place.
Final Question: Will you hold true to local concerns over party pressures and why should people vote for you?
Adam De Kroon: He believes the party must take a back seat to the people who elected the MP and says he will consult with the people of the riding about what they want him to take to Ottawa. He also says he is opposed to government intrusion into freedom and privacy and feels it is one of the big issues in this campaign.
Richard Jaques: The Green Party is not a whipped party, we vote our conscience. In Ottawa I plan on speaking your voice. It’s important that your voice is carried to Ottawa. We will be the conscience of parliament.
Tracy Calogheros: Says she will stick to her guns as she has in the past. She says the Liberal party is about opinion and individual thought and principled positions and are prepared to listen with an open mind. “So that’s who I am and that’s the voice you’ll get if you send me to Ottawa.”
Trent Derrick: We are in a party system and have to work within that. We’re going to change how people are electing, we’re going to change the role of the MP. “When it comes to me as an individual, I’m a hard worker and I want to go out into the communities and listen and be your voice.” I want to represent our entire riding, be that voice, stand up for everyone.
Sheldon Clare: The party system is fundamentally flawed and broken and it does not lead to good representation for communities and people. The riding deserves a strong voice who will get the attention that this area deserves and needs to be able to make the changes that should happen here. “I believe I’m that person.”
He says this riding has been ignored for 40 years or more and “it’s not acceptable to elect just another party backbencher.” “I’m the right candidate in the right place at the right time.”