Thursday, October 8, 2020

North Coast candidates "Prince Rupert" debate wandered off the path more than a few times Wednesday

The Three North Coast candidates gathered at the 
Prince Rupert Library on Wednesday for an election forum
on Prince Rupert/Port Edward issues
(PR Chamber FB page)

The first of two North Coast candidates forums this week was billed as one to focus on Prince Rupert and Port Edward issues, however as the ninety minute program moved forward, the candidates seemed more inclined to take the available time to wander off the theme of the night and inject other campaign talking points that were a little less focused on Prince Rupert/Port Edward issues.

The CBC's Matthew Allen
Running down the debate rules

(PR Chamber FB)
Matthew Allen from the CBC program Daybreak North handled the moderating on the night, taking to his duties following a stream of greetings from Clarence Nelson Senior, Michelle Boomars-McNeil and Janet Song to name a few.

The opening to the forum provided for the first introduction of the candidates with Libertarian Jody Craven, BC Liberal Roy Jones Junior and the NDP's Jennifer Rice providing for their opening talking points.

Overall on the night the nature of the forum provided for an opportunity for the incumbent MLA to make use of three plus years of governance to weave her narrative, one which relied heavily on many of the provincial themes being delivered by Premier Horgan with a strong focus on the British Columbia pandemic response and local issues such as housing .

The other two candidates had the task of trying to find a wedge into the relay of past provincial announcement that Ms. Rice put forward, leaving little room it seemed to try and knock her off her game, her experience of nearly a decade in politics making for a more polished presentation.

For whatever reason, Mr. Craven's approach seemed to be one which refought the last federal election, when he was a candidate for the People's Party of Canada in Skeena. As part of his presentation he recounted a number of grievances with the Federal Liberals, tied a few of those themes to John Horgan and veered rarely towards more specific items of local concern in Prince Rupert, though he did observe that he used to live in Port Edward before his move to Kitimat.

He spoke of participation in a freedom march in Ottawa earlier this year, noted of other similar events in the country and how the Federal Liberals are trying to stay in power, which also works its way to the provincial level he said. 

Mr. Jones also had a few federal concerns to share, mainly related to the fishery and how he believes the province should wrestle control of the resource from the Federal government, he also took on the NDP record on social issues, housing and outlined his concerns over their handling of the economy.

By far, the Housing issue proved to be one local item which provided for the most passion from all three candidates.

Ms. Rice began the expansive overview from the three,  rolling out the list of housing achievements that she noted  the NDP has delivered on in BC and to the Prince Rupert region, observing that it was the Horgan government which provided for the first provincial government to build housing on reserves.

Mr. Jones used the housing issue to relay some of his observations of the community in the last few weeks, expressing his concerns over the state of affordable and social housing in Prince Rupert and how BC housing had failed many of the residents of the city. The BC Liberal candidate put the blame on the current situation fully on the NDP stating that the NDP owns this; a theme which Ms. Rice would later challenge noting the past years of Liberal governments.

Mr. Craven also had strong words on housing calling the current NDP housing plan that of a song and dance, though he never really put a focus on concerns in Prince Rupert, rather taking a wider Western Canada view of the housing situation in the province.

Health care themes mostly took on a larger province wide focus with the topic of fast tracking out of country professionals dominating that area and the need for expanded midwifery care.

However, there were few comments relayed towards issues of concern in Prince Rupert such as a need for more medical resources here, or concerns over the potential loss of services here with a larger hospital on the way for Terrace.

The Highway of Tears and social concerns across the region provided for another round of commentary, with Ms. Rice making note of the steps taken by the NDP government, many of them reversals of programs once cancelled by the Previous Liberal governments.

Mr. Craven called for a wider expansion of cel phone coverage in the region, noting that everyone is in jeopardy in those areas, he also sparked a bit of a controversial moment with his views on conversion therapy, comments which left the incumbent MLA somewhat rattled as she sought a response.

Climate change, Reconciliation, Infrastructure and policing themes also wandered far from Prince Rupert, with talk of Site C development and LNG development further inland seeming to make for the conversation themes on industrial development.

The topic of shipping oil resources from British Columbia also provided for some talking points for both Mr. Jones and Mr. Craven, with mentions made of the proposed Eagle Spirit pipeline and new technologies in transiting oil explored by the challengers for the North Coast seat.

Food security and the fishery also made for some themes for all three candidates  with Ms. Rice noting of the NDP government's COVID measures as well as local initiatives such as what the Gitmaxmak'ay Nisga'a are doing in Prince Rupert.

Mr. Craven offered up the option of exploring further how a Swedish Farm Fishery system works, noting how the BC system is not working, he also noted he would speak with local fishermen to hear more of their concerns about what has gone wrong.

Mr. Jones used the food security theme to also speak to fishery issues, expressing his strong belief that the fishery needs to be taken over by the province to manage the resource properly . 

The closing comments, mostly mirrored the opening ones, with Ms. Rice defending the record of the NDP government of John Horgan, making note of the upcoming challenges that British Columbians face and offered the current government as the best choice.

The two challengers took differing approaches.

Mr. Jones provided some notes on a past regional health story where the government did not follow up on a patients care and return to home, he also made note of his long established local roots in the region, and how he has much experience when it comes to the challenges facing rural residents and knows the issues of the region.

Mr. Craven asked that voters unlearn what they have learned and to bring an open mind to the voting booth and to make your voice heard to bring change. As a lasting comment for voters to take with them, he noted that he got into politics because government  is corrupt.

You can review last evenings forum here.

Tonight's forum is focused on issues of note for Haida Gwaii, Central Coast and other rural regions of the North Coast, though if last night's debut is an indication there could be some Prince Rupert content found there we guess.

The Thursday evening event will be streamed only and  will be available here.

More notes on the 2020 provincial campaign can be found here.

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