Thursday, October 10, 2019

Candidates hold to talking points for most part in Prince Rupert election forum

Over the many years of its existence, the Lester Centre has hosted events that have ranged from the dramatic to the comedic, with a little music thrown in from time to time to keep the beat.

Last evening offered two of those three elements over the course of two hours, though if a musical number was to be included on the night, the Beatle's Long and Winding road probably would have best fit the evening's narrative.

Six of the eight candidates in the Federal election campaign were on the stage at the Lester Centre on Wednesday evening taking to a format that was long on a stream of questions, but a little light on expansive answers to some of the key inquiries of the night.

And while all six of the political parties of note were represented, there was no explanation provided as to why the two Independent candidates were not participating in the evening's events

While it's understandable that debate organizers wanted to try to learn as much from the candidates as possible in the short period of time that the were assembled in the same place; the Wednesday debate would have benefited from either a pared down list of questions, or an extra hour of debate time.

And we suspect most in the audience at the Lester Centre, or those at home viewing on CityWest community TV would have opted for the shorter list of questions and an opportunity for more back and forth among the candidates.

As the debate program rolled on, the approach of assigning questions to one candidate for the most part allowed for set answers,  position statements that could just as easily have be culled from the many pamphlets that have been arriving in mailboxes over the last few weeks.

Even with such a set format, some candidates appeared better prepared than others, not surprisingly the two front runners at this point of the campaign had the most consistent responses on the evening.

Though the NDP's Taylor Bachrach and Conservative Claire Rattée did manage to expand from their party platforms from time to time and seemed the most confident in their messages.

The others were pretty tried and true to the script that they have taken to since the campaign began, the single focus for the Green's Mike Sawyer is climate change, while Rod Taylor of the CHP  a perennial candidate at every election cycle, quoted from the CHP Platform with a heavy nod to family first issues.

Dave Birdi echoed the Liberal mantra of progressing forward and didn't stray too far from it, for Jody Craven of the People's Party the populist message of the national party seemed like a comfortable fit as he delivered his thoughts to the crowd.  At times however, Mr. Craven went even beyond what we've come to see from that party on the national scene.

Following a welcome from Elder Stan Dennis to the territory of the Tsimshian, Chamber president Michelle Boomers-McNeil provided for the short lesson on civics for the audience.

She then turned the evening over to moderator Carolina de Ryk the veteran local broadcaster who would steer the forum through it's two hour journey.

The opening remarks framed some of the core elements of each campaign:

Taylor Bachrach -- Pride in past work of NDP on oil tanker moratorium, salmon farm ban
Dave Birdi -- Business development, health care initiatives, housing and homeless notes
Jody Craven -- Health Care, Seniors issues, Remove the Carbon Tax
Claire Rattée -- Overturn pipeline ban, overturn tanker moratorium, remove carbon tax
Mike Sawyer -- Opposition to LNG development, Climate Crisis is real and must be addressed
Rod Taylor -- Life, Family, Freedom, Responsible resource development, Seniors and Veterans issues

There were far too many questions on the night to try and recap all of them and for the most part the answers were all what one might expect from each candidate's political messaging so far.

But there were some flash points that did take the candidates off script a bit and provided for some drama that broke from the more structured nature of the forum.

An early question on whether the candidates would support LNG in Prince Rupert first directed to Taylor Bachrach, brought two interrogation challenges.

For his part Mr. Bachrach channeled much of the Social Licence vein delivered by Nathan Cullen of years past, noting that all LNG proposals would have to meet a three part test including Indigenous consent, fit into climate guidelines and deliver benefits to communities.

That brought out the challenges, with Jody Craven noting that at the federal level the NDP leader had stated there should be no more Gas or Oil development, in response the NDP candidate made note of some of his concerns over the routing of the gas pipeline to Kitimat.

For her challenge, Ms. Rattée asked Bachrach how you would reconcile the NDP's opposition to pipelines and No Fracking to his three point proposal.

He observed how the NDP policy is one of a plan of transition away from oil and gas development.

Related to the theme, but framed in a separate question on how to  transition away from fossil fuels, Ms. Rattée observed that she is a supporter of the development of LNG which she outlined was a cleaner source of energy than coal or other sources.

For the CHP's Taylor the presence of fossil fuels is a gift from God and has fuelled the Canadian economy, he also weighed into the climate debate by suggesting that CO2 concerns are unproven.

The climate debate heated up somewhat  in a discussion over who supported the Liberal party's Trans Mountain pipeline purchase.

Jody Craven created perhaps one of the two most controversial moments of the night, first noting how Canadians need to get their resources to global markets, though making a point to note that he doesn't support anything that Justin Trudeau does.

He then outlined his disdain for what he referred to as the paid protesters of the environmental movement, suggesting that American environmental groups such as the Tides Foundation and others were funnelling money into Canada.

That brought a fairly immediate reaction from the Green Party's Mike Sawyer, who noted for Mr. Craven that he is one of those protesters and then wondered aloud where his money was.

Sawyer called the People's Party candidate's claim a myth created by the Oil and Gas Lobby, comparing them to the sunset industries of the past.

Now to be fair to Mr. Craven, he was attending the debate after having had some wrist surgery earlier in the day, so perhaps he wasn't quite expressing himself as best he could.

However he did ratchet up the rhetoric on the issue by suggesting that those who are funded by such agencies as the Tides Foundation or the Sierra club, should be arrested as traitors to Canada.

A statement that left  much of the crowd at the Lester Centre somewhat stunned, though it did elicit some of the few outbursts from the audience on the evening.

As though to pour some fuel to the fire, Mr. Craven then proclaimed how his party was here for Canadians and how he believed that there is no Climate emergency.

For his part Craven's commentary provided an opening for Sawyer to position himself strongly on the environmental message, noting that you can't be a traitor when you are following principles of Canadian due process and rights in law to speak out on issues.

Curiously, NDP candidate Taylor Bachrach, who has strong opinions on the topic of the environment, did not use his own interjection card at this point.

He would however regain some of the environmental momentum later in the debate when he addressed a question on the recent Climate Strike and the participation of youth in the event

With Mr. Bachrach praising the work of Greta Thunberg as an example to follow and how Canadians should follow and respect the science on climate issues. He would also challenge the Conservative views on climate policy and the approaches they plan to take.

Ms. Rattée the Conservative candidate had pointed towards actionable party policies such as the Green Homes Tax Credit to retrofit homes with energy efficiency elements, attract investment for development of more Green technology in Canada

For the most part however, it was the Green candidate how made the most noise on the climate change issue, something that may serve to drive those who are passionate on the topic over to the Mr. Sawyer's spot on the ballot on election day.

The other controversial moment was focused on what had been the Top Question as provided by the audience, that on the theme of the candidate's positions on Women's Rights, framed as part of a statement focusing on some public comments from the Liberal candidate who was described as Pro Life.

The introduction to the question, which was directed to all candidates, made for a rare mis-step for Ms. de Ryk, who interrupted the flow of the forum to observe that she believed that the question was possibly wrong and should be addressed towards the Conservative candidate.

"Given the recent revelation that the Liberal party candidate is Pro Life, contrary to the Liberal party policy; I think it should say something different, I think this is the Conservative Party candidate is Pro Life ... is that not correct" 

That resulted in a short pause of confusion for a moment, with Ms. de Ryk advised by forum organizers that the question as it appeared on the screen stating the Liberal party candidates' position was the correct citation of the question offered by the public.

With the clarification in place, the majority of the candidates then waded into the theme some somewhat more tentatively than others.

Liberal Dave Birdi led off with the replies, noting how he fully supported a women's right and that necessary services are required so that the situation does not come in, noting how it not only affects the woman but the family as well and any discussion is between a woman and her doctor and how the government has no role in that.

Conservative Claire Rattée noted that the issue had been addressed by the national party which had clearly stated that they would not reopen the debate over women's rights on that theme.

That brought an immediate interrogation challenge from the NDP's Taylor Bachrach, who noted that the question has come up at previous debates and how he fully supports a woman's right to choose,  in his comments of Wednesday he appeared determined to have his Conservative opponent declare her personal beliefs on the issue.

Ms. Rattée took on Mr. Bachrach's challenge by observing that she had answered the question previous by stating the Conservative's policy on the issue; noting for Mr. Bachrach that she also happened to notice that she was the only one sitting on the stage with a uterus so she wasn't sure why she was the only one being asked that question of anyone.

Mike Sawyer observed as to how the issue of the reproductive function of a woman is entirely her choice and between her and her doctor.

Jody Craven made note of the People's Party position on late term abortion which he observed is a topic that the two groups need to get together on, he spoke on adoption as a piece of the puzzle, while also noting that he was Pro Life in his belief, and how the nation needs to address the issue.

The Christian Heritage Party's Rod Taylor echoed some of the past CHP points on the issue, framed by his belief that 60 percent of abortions are the result of some sort of pressure or coercion from a boyfriend or husband. He observed how there are two bodies involved and wondered who speaks for the unborn person who is approaching gestation. He called for more protections for the preborn observing how they have no legal status or protection under Canadian law.

Ms. de Ryk would return to the topic a bit later in the evening, offering an apology to Ms. Rattée for suggesting that she had been the subject of the submitted question.

As a form of penance perhaps,  she provided a question that offered up the Conservative candidate a chance to take on the topic of the SNC/Lavalin controversy.

"I should not have suggested it was the Conservative party candidate, so my apologies; so with that in mind, I would like to ask you what are your thoughts, this is a public question,  on the SNC/Lavalin crisis"

In response, Ms. Rattée echoed many of her previous points on the topic, highlighting how it was an example as to why the Prime Minister is not fit to govern and how he was the first Prime Minister to be found in breach of an ethics investigation not once but twice, observing how he does not have the moral authority to govern.

Recounting some of the recent incidents such as the black face controversy and other scandals Rattée observed that most people don't want him to remain as Prime Minister and she is working to achieve that.

Liberal candidate Dave Birdi countered that argument by noting how the Prime Minister has done a tremendous job of job creation, observing how he sees the SNC/Lavalin issue as one that had been passed on by the Conservative government. He outlined how he believes that the Prime Minister's response was the proper one, he questioned as to what most offended Ms. Rattée about the issue.

She noted how it was simply a question of corruption and that it's a case of a  Prime Minister who thinks the rules don't apply to him.

Jody Craven attempted to join the debate, however he had used up his two interrogation cards and would have to sit out the discussion.

A few other themes of note for the North Coast made for some interesting thoughts on the night, including a question related to news that was released earlier in the day by the Lax Kw'alaams, Metlakatla, Haisla and Nisga'a of an initiative to work towards global climate goals through development of LNG and hydro resources in their territories.

The question which was directed towards the Green's Mike Sawyer found the candidate not finding much to celebrate from the announcement, noting how with all respect to the First Nations involved he believes that the concept is one that is based on misguided or poor science.

Issues of the North Coast Fishery also held some importance on the night, with Taylor Bachrach recounting a recent visit with UFAWU-Unifor's Joy Thorkeslon who showed him a package of Canadian fish, packaged in China and sold in Prince Rupert stores, the anecdote providing him opportunity to call for legislation to ensure resources are processed in Canada.

The Green Party's Mike Sawyer answered a question on the recent salmon season and a call for Climate Disaster assistance, offering up some thoughts on the nature of the crisis before he outlined how he would be in favour of the assistance request.

Infrastructure and housing also made for a few moments of discussion.

On  infrastructure, Liberal Dave Birdi noted how it's not just a Prince Rupert concern but one that all communities share, making note of the colour of some water he had been served earlier in the day in Prince Rupert he outlined some of the Liberal party's work on water treatment projects in the region and how it is a share approach between federal, provincial and municipal governments.

Rod Taylor floated a CHP policy initiative that would see the Bank of Canada provide for interest free loans towards infrastructure development.

The People's party's Jody Craven put the focus on housing for Seniors and ways to address homelessness, calling for Federal Crown land to be used for housing, sidestepping provincial governments to deliver more housing options.

The evening wrapped up with closing comments, with the candidates returning to many of the themes you will see from their online or home delivered material

Taylor Bachrach -- We have a responsibility to give back which led him to seek office, government can build a better community and country, he called for public pharmacare, for Canadians to stand up to oil and gas companies and move towards transition to clean energy and in a country as rich as Canada it's wrong that anyone should go without a home calling for a national investment in housing.

Dave Birdi -- Choose forward, the Liberals have learned from the past and they have a team focused on the economy, job opportunities for youth to get ahead and to provide for services for seniors.

Jody Craven -- Focused on corporate bail outs, loss of Canadian jobs and how politicians need to change. He called for Lower taxes, balance budgets and improve housing and infrastructure themes.

Claire Rattée -- Noted the effort that she has put in to earn the vote of the public and how she would represent constituents to Ottawa and not the other way around.

Mike Sawyer -- Stressed his concern on the climate crisis and all that will roll into that, he also observed how if a Green Party had a role in forming government policy such things as a Clean Water and Clean Air Act would be accomplished.

Rod Taylor -- Highlighted how socialist politicians had wasted tax dollars on useless schemes to fix the climate and political symbols like rainbow crosswalks and sidewalks to nowhere. He also made note of themes such as gender ideology on small children and  the spread of bureaucracy and a warning on bureaucratic dictatorships. Calling for a restoration of common sense, including the right to life and the right to be free to express their thoughts.

For the truly dedicated Northwest political observers there are a few more forums to come over the next week or so, with the candidates back on the stage tonight in Kitimat and again next Thursday the 17th in Terrace.

Both of those forums will be broadcast and streamed live through CityWest.

Smithers residents will also have an opportunity to take in the road show on October 15th.

Should you wish to revisit the Lester Centre forum from last night, CityWest will be re-broadcasting the Prince Rupert event on Saturday, October 19th at 3 PM.

To keep up with the candidates as they head into the home stretch of the 2019 campaign follow our Skeena-Bulkley Valley archive page here.

To return to the most recent blog posting of the day, click here.


  1. Still no mention from any of the canidates about Fukushima and its effects on the north coast. Also no mention of China and 5G and the imminent danger they pose to all Canada

    1. Not sure those issues were ever raised at the forum, I watched all two hours of it and don't remember them ...


  2. Also my comment having to be approved is an un democratic form of socialist censorship

  3. Well, this is simple, consult the notice at the bottom right hand corner as to why we choose to moderate (not censor thanks) any comments. Sorry you don't quite understand how that dedication to civil discussion works, socialist, capitalist or any other dimension as the case may be .