It was a packed house inside the Heritage Centre for the All Candidates Forum in Burns Lake on Sept. 26. The event was organized by the Burns Lake & District Chamber of Commerce.
The candidates vying to win the Skeena-Bulkley Valley riding discussed their platforms and engaged in brief debates.
Six of the eight people seeking to head to Ottawa were in attendance. These included NDP candidate Taylor Bachrach, the Liberals candidate Dave Birdi, Conservative Party candidate Claire Rattée, People’s Party of Canada (PPC) candidate Jody Craven, Green Party candidate Michael Sawyer and Rod Taylor from the Christian Heritage Party.
The two independent candidates, Merv Ritchie and Danny Nunes (aka Dan the Bear), were not present.
One question that generated much discussion was what the candidates would do to find alternative industries for communities facing the decline of forestry.
Taylor responded that the lower levels of timber on the land today are because previous generations lacked the technology to make efficient use of all grades of lumber.
Sawyer blamed the shift in forestry patterns from the small-scale local mills in many communities seen many years ago to large multinational corporations with large land tenures.
Bachrach responded that economies like forestry, fisheries and agriculture can’t be abandoned and should remain as mainstays even if they won’t employ as many people as they once did.
Birdi said that forestry companies need to find more foreign markets for timber and rely less on selling mostly to companies in the United States.
Craven said American influence over forestry has to change.
Rattée said the federal government needs to work more with the province on forestry and added that a Conservative government would try and resolve the softwood lumber dispute with the U.S. and repeal Bill C-69, also known as the Impact Assessment Act which assesses large projects for their effects on the environment and public health.
Another heavily discussed issue was the candidates’ positions on LNG development and pipeline projects.
While Bachrach said he supports LNG projects, he said they must pass a three-part test. “The first thing is that the projects must fit with the provincial and national climate plans. The second thing is that they need to have consent from Indigenous people. The third part is that they need to leave a positive, lasting legacy in our communities.”
Taylor said his party supports the LNG proposals and believes LNG is one of the cleaner energy sources available.
“Fracking is a concern, we don’t have a policy opposed to fracking but I am concerned about the injection of manmade chemicals underground that is part of fracking. The industry needs to look at ways to reduce that injection of chemicals. One of the most important things for our areas is jobs.”
Birdi said getting Canadian resources to foreign markets is necessary.
“With Kitimat, there’s a possibility to take LNG to communities on barges and lower their hydro bills and provide cleaner energy.”
Craven said the PPC would withdraw from the Paris Accord on greenhouse gas emissions. “We’ll stop sending billions of dollars to developing countries. We’re going to abolish the Liberal carbon tax. We’re going to invest in solutions for Canada’s air, water and soil. We’ll bring clean drinking water to remote First Nations communities.”
Rattée returned to the issue of Bill C-69, which she called the ‘No More Pipelines Act’, and said that repealing it would be in the best interests of people of the region.
“I understand the need for action on the environment but at the end of the day I’m much more concerned about the fact that there are many families in this riding that are going without food. I’m concerned about them having meaningful employment and they need to have access to long-term jobs. The Canadian economy is incredibly dependent on these energy resource projects and no party has been able to come up with an effective plan to actually stop us from being reliant on them.”
Sawyer held up a yellow “rebuttal” card and denounced the ‘No Pipelines Act’ moniker as propaganda, and added that C-69 says that development projects under federal jurisdiction must take into consideration the environmental and social effects.
Canadians will be able to make their choice when polls open for the federal election on Oct. 21, 2019.