A packed room at the Ladysmith Eagles Hall heard from the six candidates vying to represent Nanaimo-North Cowichan in the Legislature May 2, as they shared their priorities.
After introducing themselves, the candidates fielded questions related to issues such as health care, treaty negotiations, immigration, smart meters and education during the meeting, which was hosted by the Ladysmith Chamber of Commerce.
Candidates were asked how they would support job growth in B.C. and particularly in this riding.
NDP candidate Doug Routley told the crowd the primary concern of all industries in this province is skills training and the loss of skilled tradespeople and people who can take the “jobs of tomorrow.”
“In so many communities, they can see the jobs on the side hill, but their own children aren’t prepared to take those jobs,” he said. “That’s why the main focus of our campaign and our program is around skills training and providing a needs-based, non-refundable student grant and to reduce tuition rates for students. Those are some of the things government can actively do in terms of policy, but we also have to look at the role of government in the economy as procurers of services and employers.”
Independent candidate P. Anna Paddon advocated for building a tunnel from Crofton to Richmond.
“Building a tunnel will not only have horizontal development,” she said. “We will have tourism here, and we will have industry, not just construction; it will bring professionals.”
She also spoke about creating a program in high schools where students could begin a trades program with an apprenticeship.
Amanda Jacobson, who is running for the BC Liberal Party, says her party has been quite forthcoming with its plan for the economy.
“We’ve come out with the BC Jobs Plan, which includes the [liquefied natural gas] expansion, and we also strive for a business plan that makes the private sector want to invest so we can continue to make jobs outside of traditional areas,” she said.
BC Conservatives candidate John Sherry spoke about ensuring the tax burden doesn’t get too high.
“The BC Conservatives are dedicated to holding the line on taxes for these large corporate job creators,” he said. “We have a number of these larger companies in our area that provide very well-paying union wages; we need these high-paying jobs in our community. We can’t go backwards; we can’t raise taxes on them and limit their ability to grow.”
Mayo McDonough, our riding’s candidate for the Green Party, says one of the first things she’d do is bring more money into the community.
“Municipal governments right now can only get about eight cents out of every dollar in our tax revenue, so the Green Party would see some money coming down from the province into municipalities to be able to meet the needs that are required in the community,” she said.
She also spoke about putting money into renewable energy and
taking some of the incentives that have been going to oil and gas companies and putting them into small businesses and co-operatives.
Independent candidate Murray McNab believes one of the first things that needs to happen is for the federal government to revisit the temporary foreign worker program.
Supporting small business is another priority for McNab.
“Whichever government gets elected, small business is the engine that drives this economy,” he said. “We have to set limits on what local governments can tax industrial and commercial businesses. It’s time there was more money put into small business and apprenticeship programs so we can get people back to work.”
Candidates were asked if they and their party have a plan to reduce ferry costs and if they have a plan to privatize the ferry system. They were also asked about their party’s position on allowing supertankers to transport oil on the northern coast near Kitimat.
Jacobson chose to address the ferry question and highlighted what the Liberals have done in the past, such as setting fare caps and investing in BC Ferries to try to keep fares down, all while facing rising fuel costs and increased maintenance costs.
“We recognize the magnitude that potential ferry fare increases and the increases that have already been put in place, the magnitude they have on ridership, especially in this area,” she said. “We are actively looking for solutions to balance the needs of ferry users and the financial stability of our ferry system.”
McNab spoke about some of the things he hasn’t agreed with in the past when it comes to BC Ferries, such as the Fast Cats, building ferries that were too large — and building them in Germany.
He feels the Duke Point ferry terminal should have never been built and that a bridge should have been built to Gabriola Island.
“Get a bridge to Gabriola to reduce some of the costs, and the small routes have to start paying their way,” he said.
Paddon believes BC Ferries should be a public corporation. She also thinks there should be a bridge to Gabriola instead of a ferry.
“Over the past five years, I’ve watched the signs on the highway as I went to and from work, and always the ferries, for the majority of the day, are below 30 per cent, and that’s over five years that these ferries have been losing,” she added.
The BC Conservatives have committed to providing a tax credit for frequent ferry users, Sherry told the crowd, adding his party would cut the three boards running BC Ferries down to one.
McDonough spoke about supertankers transporting oil, asking “isn’t that investing in the exact kind of energy that we’re trying to get away from?”
“If we’re going to put our investment dollars somewhere, why aren’t we going to put our investment dollars into green, renewable energy … something that doesn’t have to go in a supertanker,” she said.
Routley told the crowd the BC NDP is opposed to the Enbridge Gateway project.
“It’s the position of the BC NDP that we do not need to turn B.C. into a crude oil export terminus,” he said. “There’s a moratorium on supertankers on the northern coast for a reason, and we aim to keep it in place.”