Friday, April 21, 2017

Radio debates set the scene for Monday's North Coast All Candidates meeting

The trio of candidates for the North Coast riding were in the
studio with CFNR this week, taking part in a one hour debate on area issues
(photo from CFNR website)

This week found the three North Coast candidates in the provincial election testing out their radio voices, with Jennifer Rice, Herb Pond and Hondo Arendt engaged in two radio discussions on issues leading up to the May 9th vote.

Wednesday night the three took part in a one hour debate on election issues hosted by CFNR's Corey Callaghan, the trio explored a number of key areas introduced by Callaghan.

From her opening remarks through to the back and forth of the discussion over the hour the NDP's Ms. Rice seemed to be making use of the John Horgan talking points. With the incumbent MLA outlining a number of NDP themes from the election campaign so far, with a note made on plans to replace Prince Rupert's Middle School included in her opening remarks. Ms. Rice also put some focus on the larger NDP plan to call attention to Christy Clark, making note of the Liberal leader in a number of instances, referencing the Premier as one quick for a photo op, but little in the way of assistance to the riding.

For his part, Liberal candidate Pond stayed with a more local focus, calling on his past years as a Mayor of Prince Rupert and his past engagement with First Nations of the region, offering up a short synopsis of his time as an elected official and community advocate. Mr Pond observed as to how he and his wife had raised a family in the community but had to watch as their children had to leave the region to look for work, calling that moment as one that spurred him on to municipal office and continues now to be his main thrust for the quest for a seat in the Legislature, offering up his desire to produce results for the riding.

Green Party candidate Hondo Arendt offered up some of his background of twenty five years on the North Coast, the majority of it employed with Northwest community College in Prince Rupert. He called attention to the staying power of the Green Party and how as a third party they have continued to grow in vote totals and attention. While noting that they still don't have the financial resources to reach all corners of the riding, the party continues to find loyalty among voters that support the Green ideology.

As for the question period, the theme of LNG made for the first foray into talking points, with the NDP's Rice calling into question the approach taken by the BC Liberals, which she said did not have much in the way of coordination, with each project looked at individually, suggesting a more regional overview would have been more appropriate.

For his part, Mr. Pond noted that LNG if done right would be a positive for the North Coast and that he had done his own personal review of what impact the industry would have on the people of the communities of the North Coast and he believes that it offers a number of unique opportunities, pointing to tax generation and employment as the major aspects that it offers. Though he did add that the development needs to be respectful of the environment, calling attention to the strong work of First Nations in the region towards that environmental overview.

Hondo Arendt noted that no one would be surprised that the Green Party is not in favour of LNG development and how the Green's would be looking to shift the tax burden more towards the energy industry to allow for other energy options to become more prevalent. For his takeaway on the LNG discussion, he noted that the Liberals were pro LNG, while NDP policy is somewhat unclear on LNG development while there is no confusion on the Green policy of the industry.

Ms. Rice took that opportunity to reinforce how the BC NDP views LNG development, using the Pacific NorthWest LNG project as her measuring stick as to how the Liberals have failed the local community, using the region and its issues as more of a political check box rather than a full engagement with the community.

The LNG discussion also provided the first of what would become a frequent approach by Ms. Rice of tying Mr. Pond, or "the liberal candidate" as she frequently referred to him to a number of Liberal policies.

As a rebuttal, Mr. Pond noted how the NDP approach has created an investment chill for the province, with investors unsure as to how the rules will be applied and at what consistency, he also offered up his confidence in the ability of local communities and First Nations leaders to negotiate arrangements that provide them with the protection they are seeking. He pointed to the container terminal which is foreign owned but has become a local fixture as a model for what the North coast can achiveve.

Mr. Arendt suggested that the Liberals have not maximized the potential benefits that were available and noted how resource extraction is an area where there should be more benefit to local communities. He also observed that the strategy of holding out scare tactics that things must be made advantageous for business is not one that works well.

Question Number Two was focused on the recent sinking of the Nathan Stewart barge off of Bella Bella with the candidates asked how they would protect the coastlines.

The conversation opened on a theme that wasn't much of a surprise, will all three were on the same page as far as the nature of the tragedy and the impact on the Central Coast.

Mr. Pond noted that there is an increasing level of marine traffic on the coast and how there is a need to be prepared and he would be advocating for protection of the coast line.

Mr. Arendt echoed the traffic concerns, calling for controls on shipping in some areas including Haida Gwaii, he observed that any MLA regardless of party affiliation needs to be concerned about the potential dangers that exist.

Listening to the residents of coastal BC, in this case the Heiltsuk was the theme of Ms. Rice's commentary, calling for the central coast to be treated with respect. She recalled her time in Bella Bella and her observations and conversations with local residents on what could have been done to protect the coast.

In response, Mr. Pond noted that Ms. Rice's observations were good ones, as well he acknowledged the work of the first responders that were engaged in the clean up.

That was something that Ms. Rice also offered praise towards, recalling the work of those dispatched to the scene and how the local community and neighbouring communities also offered their own assistance. Though taking time to note that the means of dealing with the issue and the training provided by provincial and federal sources was totally inadequate

Mr. Arendt observed that while it was a good thing that the communities were quick in their response, there is a need for a larger presence and a better process in place on the coast to address such incidents should they occur.

Question Three focused on BC Ferries and should they be considered an essential service.

The Green candidate, Mr. Arendt made the argument that it was the resources of the Northwest that provide the economic backbone for the province and from that, this region should receive more benefit from that contribution to the provincial economy. He noted that the province needs to better address needs such as transportation, health and education of those areas from where the resources come from.

Ms. Rice noted that the Ferries should be treated as part of the provincial transportation system, she observed as to the financial cost to residents of Haida Gwaii owing to the cost of ferry transportation or the lack of frequent service, adding that there is also a spin off effect where residents have cancelled medical appointments owing to the schedule cut backs and expense of travel.

For his part Mr. Pond called back to his days as Mayor and how residents want results and how the people want their representatives to build the case for decision makers as to what the major issues are and how to ensure that local needs are heard.

Ms. Rice responded to that observation from the "liberal candidate here", calling on her time as MLA and her tireless work on keeping the issue of Ferry transportation as a main concern of the region, noting that it had fallen on deaf ears. She then further outlined the NDP plan for a new ferry strategy and to bring it back into the provincial transportation system.

Mr. Arendt noted that Ms. Rice has been a good advocate for the riding on the issue of Ferry transportation, adding that there is a need to look at a larger issue than just ferry subsidization and how decisions on transportation can have impacts on other issues.

Some more flashes of controversy popped up as the topic was winding down, as Mr. Pond returned to the need for results and how during his time as Mayor he found the way to learn how the system works and found success on projects that have made a difference in the community and that's what people are looking for as an MLA.

Ms. Rice, took note of that observation and challenged how Mr. Pond's party, or as she put it "this guy's party" has approached BC Ferries and recalled how she had fought to overturn a regulation related to wheelchair access, something which Mr. Pond noted she should be given credit for.

Question Four was focused on affordable housing.

Ms. Rice led off the discussion on housing, calling attention to the NDP plan for social and co-op housing in the province, noting that housing has been a file that has been neglected for years. She touched on issues of renovictions and how the NDP will also create jobs by building homes using BC engineered wood. For renters there will be rental rebates, as well as a focus for the NDP on fixing loopholes in regulations and legislation.

Mr. Pond offered up that housing can be tied in to employment, noting how people are returning to Prince Rupert to take advantage of the new employment opportunities. He also noted that there are some in need in the community when it comes to assistance for housing and that local governments have been seeking grants to address those issues. He also observed as to how he would work to bring in resources to help those who need it most.

The Liberal candidate however offer up some concern over the NDP plan for a 400 dollar a month rebate, questioning how it would be applied, as well as to suggest the prospect of an expanding program and to question where the NDP would find the money to deliver those programs.

Mr. Arendt offered up a snapshot as to how the Green's approach housing issues and how there is a difference between issues in the Lower Mainland and the North Coast, noting how Prince Rupert has had some of the highest vacancy rates in the province and how that has not translated into a lower cost of  housing. He challenged the unfettered capitalism approach of the Liberals and how in Prince Rupert there is a need for a specific approach to the issue.

On housing stock Ms. Rice observed as to the aging nature of what is available in the community and how vacancies may not translate into acceptable housing conditions. She noted how under the Liberals, BC housing has gotten out of the housing business, shifting the burden to private organizations calling attention to a number of properties in Prince Rupert that are not in a condition for occupancy at the moment. She also challenged Mr. Pond's theory on jobs and the ability to access housing.

Mr. Pond returned to that theme, noting how people want to at some point own their own home and for those that need assistance there is a need to make sure that it is available.

Mr. Arendt, acknowledged that if the past is an indication that Mr. Pond is one who would fight for his community. But he also agreed with Ms. Rice that the Liberals have not been very engaged in taking care of public housing in the community calling the situation with some of the public housing units in Prince Rupert as somewhat surreal.

Question Five was one related to recent findings from the Youth Representative and other reports on how to best serve Aboriginal children in the province.

Mr. Pond led off the discussion on the topic, noting how the issue is one that is heartbreaking, he then observed that there is a need to fight for those families and how there is more work to be done when it comes to providing support for aboriginal families.

Mr. Arendt looked to the areas of lack of opportunity and lack of access to such things as education and transportation that is key to the systemic problems facing aboriginal children, and how there is a need for equal services.

Ms. Rice looked for some clarification on the question and then relayed some of her concerns over the disparity between those aboriginal children in care and other segments of the community, she called for better resources and support for the agencies that face the issues on the front lines.

Question Six was focused on political donations in British Columbia.

The policy of the Green party to not accept donations from large industry or union was the theme for Mr. Arendt, noting that the party is wholly funded by smaller donations and that means that his budget for the campaign will be significantly smaller than his opponents.

On the larger issue of political donations he outlined some of the expectations that come from political donations and how it impacts on democracy.

Ms. Rice took note of how John Horgan is approaching the issue, highlighting how Christy Clark and the Liberals have stymied approaches to reform political donations and how that is impacting on how politics works in the province.

Mr. Pond commented that he was constantly hearing about Christy Clark, but he as he looked around he didn't see her in the room, noting that in the North Coast riding the issues are much more localized and that's what is on the mind of the people at the moment, and how he wants to work for them on those issues.

On the theme of political donations he notes that nobody seems to have clean hands on the topic and for him the larger issue is that those that are elected are working for the people that elect them.

In response Mr. Arendt noted some of the inconsistencies on the issue when it comes to how political parties approach the issue, though he suggested that the theme of political funding is something that local voters should take note of.

Ms. Rice observed that at the doors that she knocks on the issue is resonating, noting how Christy Clark is unpopular owing to the scandals that have arisen in recent months and that she found it a bit rich that the NDP should take criticism for taking donations from unions, when they pale to what the Liberals are taking in and how they NDP doesn't want to go into the election with their hands tied behind their backs. She did outline that the NDP has a plan to change how the political donation process works.

To rebut some of Ms. Rice's notes, Mr. Pond observed that he wasn't running away from the Liberals, taking note that his campaign is for the BC Liberals and that his purpose in running is to fight for the people of the North Coast.

As for political funding he called for a full review on the issue, and that there should be a thoughtful approach to the topic. He called attention to the transparency that the BC Liberals have put in place for the listing of donations.

The Green approach to the reform of political donations was a bit more basic, with Mr. Arendt noting that they wouldn't advocate for a review, but would just outright ban donations from large corporate and large industry donations.

The final question of the night was related to the call by the Northwest BC Benefits Alliance for more financial benefits to be returned to local communities from large scale development.

Not surprisingly the candidates thought that was a good idea, with differing levels of approach to the theme.

Ms. Rice noted that the alliance was modelled after the NDP fair share program for the Northeast and how it's designed to ensure that communities in the areas of development receive the resources to address the additional costs that local governments and First Nations will find with the development.

Mr. Pond also agreed that there is a need to better provide funding to municipalities, recalling his time on City Council when the NDP reduced provincial funding to the municipalities and how the city had to deal with the issues that came from that decision. He said he would advocate for that level of resource sharing and how the best level of government that responds to local concerns is local government and how there is a need to ensure that they have the resources available to tackle those tasks.

Mr. Arendt noted that he doubts that you would find anyone running for political office that would state that they are against local benefits, he also called attention to the issue of log exports on the North Coast and across the Northwest that there is a lack of return to the communities from those exports, with much of the benefit flowing out of the region.

Ms. Rice noted how the Liberal candidate was totally on board with the Northwest BC Benefits Alliance and how the Liberal party has stalled any efforts to try and get the process moving forward and have come out against it. Towards that theme, the NDP candidate wondered how Mr. Pond would reconcile that position with Christy Clark's views.

Mr. Pond took advantage of that opening to outline why North Coasters may want to vote for him, offering up how he is not be running to represent a party to a riding, but to represent the North Coast into government. Adding that he may not always agree and would be prepared to make that known, including how he votes. He offered up a glimpse into the future where he suggested that a look at his voting record in the Legislature that there may be three or four times where he will have voted away from his party and taken a stand for the North Coast.

He also called attention to some of the challenges that all candidates on the North coast are facing as they need to battle the southern more urbanized areas and their approach to how the province should be governed.

With that Ms. Rice questioned why he didn't run as an Independent, noting that if he doesn't agree with the Liberal platform why is he running as a member of the BC Liberal party.

To that thought, Mr. Pond noted that he wasn't running from the party, adding that he believes that the BC Liberals will be better for the economy as a whole and what has been lacking is the ability for the North Coast to hitch its wagon to the economic success of the province and how he wants to be the lynch pin between the communities of the North Coast and the province's future.

Ms. Rice continued to work the theme that Mr. Pond should instead have run as an Independent, a theme that Mr. Pond observed is why people hate and tune out partisan politics, noting that if elected the people could judge him on whether he has represented the North Coast and delivered results back to them.

Mr. Arendt offered up a bit of levity on the theme, though it came with an important point, providing an observation that if Mr. Pond was to vote two or three times against the BC Liberal positions, that he may end up sitting as an Independent.

Towards that idea, Mr. Pond noted that it that was the price, that's fine, noting some of his political heroes in the province are those that did not always vote along a party line, adding he would be that kind of MLA.

He further suggested that voters should look at every MLA's voting record to see if they ever voted against their party and if they haven't, ask who they really are representing.

The three candidates then revisited some of their main themes as part of their closing comments, looking to what they would hope to achieve in Victoria should they be elected, as well as to touch on some of the areas that weren't covered during the hour and a bit discussion.

You can view the Wednesday night exchange from this link.

Carolina de Ryk from CBC's Daybreak
North hosted a Thursday morning question
period for the North Coast candidates in
the Provincial election
(photo from CBC archives
Thursday morning the three were in the Prince Rupert studios of Daybreak North, where host Carolina de Ryk navigated the discussion on issues related to three key themes.

For the most part, the same topics made for the Thursday review as well, with the candidates settling into their talking points easily when it came to affordable housing, LNG and the North coast economy.

Housing was the lead off topic and to set the scene the CBC host introduced the candidates by way of an audio clip, to a local resident who had been living on the streets for a period of March.

Ms. Rice outlined the need for increases to income assistance to help provide some form of a financial cushion when it comes to housing. As he did the night before, Mr. Pond returned to his themes of how employment can build towards home ownership, while also noting of some of the local assets available in the community and the plans for future projects in the community to address housing issues.

Mr. Arendt took note of the broad array of problems facing those looking for housing in the community and tied it towards some of the government policies over the last fifteen years where the suggested solutions are not matching up with the need.

When it came to what the NDP might offer up towards addressing the issues on housing, Ms. Rice seemed to have some difficulty in interpreting the questions being asked by the CBC host, asking for clarification a couple of times when it came to that theme.

Once she was back on track, Ms. Rice recounted some of her observations on housing in the community and the need for better leadership on economic matters, working the issue of LNG into the discussion and how the Liberal ambitions have yet to be delivered to the community.

The theme of resource development and how the North Coast was losing forestry and fishing employment made for a focus for Mr. Arendt as well,  as he noted that the traditional industries of the region have seen larger exports of raw resources whether logs or fish and little of it is processed in the region. That is a situation that the Greens would look to address through legislation.

Turning to the theme of LNG, the three candidates were offered a chance to explore their thoughts on the industry, with Mr. Pond the first to offer up his view of how the industry is evolving in the region.

He noted that there are parallels to when the region brought the container shipping industry to the port, how many said that it would never take place and that it was through the hard working women and men of the North coast who made that industry a huge success

He further outlined how he has confidence in the same type of dedication from the hard working residents of the North Coast to create an LNG industry in the region, though noting that external forces are shifting the timeline somewhat.

From the early stages of LNG development, Mr, Pond observed that over the last few years, education and training opportunities have been introduced to the region in anticipation of the industry's arrival and those skills have been valuable additions to the community for jobs today.

Ms. Rice was asked how the NDP would revise the environmental assessment process with a Made in BC process and what impact that would have on those terminals with existing certificates, a question that Ms. Rice noted she couldn't really answer at this time.

She did however expand on the difficulties that the NDP have with the current environmental process, which she called onerous and a hindrance for all that are involved, adding that it provides for a large amount of stress on those that are most affected by the prospect of development, calling attention to the current evaluation process for the residents of Dodge Cove.

Ms. de Ryk noted that while the Aurora project for Digby Island would have a impact on those living at Dodge Cove, it also has large economic resonance for residents around the North Coast.

Ms. Rice questioned just how much resonance that the project would have, noting the lack of success so far by the Liberals when it comes to delivering on the LNG industry in the region, observing as to some of the division and angst that the issue has called in the communities of the North Coast.

For his part Mr. Pond called on a comment from the evening before, where he noted that once again the theme of Christy Clark is making for the main theme on the debate and yet she's not in the room.

He again recounted how he had approached his review of what the industry could mean for the community, balanced with how it could be balanced with environmental concerns. He pointed to the need for more industrial jobs in the region and how that would allow the community grow.

He offered up that the NDP candidate has been all over the map when it comes to her thoughts on the industry, something that Ms. Rice disputed.

Hondo Arendt brought the discussion on LNG to an close, noting that Green party is not a large fan of fossil fuels, calling attention to issues such as climate change and fracking related to energy development.

However, he did note that British Columbia is a primary resource exporting province and that the main goal of the Green party is to maximize the benefits of that and to produce a taxation system that gains the most from the forestry and energy sectors but also levels the playing field for other green energy sources

The twenty minutes of Daybreak North can be found here.

The overview above is just a sample of some of the back and forth of the discussions of the two radio events and exploring the themes further is something that will be of some benefit for those that don't have their voting patterns already pre ordained.

Both the CFNR debate and the CBC discussions are worth a review to get a bit of a glimpse into how the three candidates are approaching the issues of the campaign and where they part ways on some of the topics.

The two radio discussions also served as a bit of a primer for what will be the main event of Monday night at the Lester Centre, where some of the same themes will no doubt make their way into the discussion.

For more items related to the North Coast election campaign see our North Coast Votes archive page here.

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