Hondo Arendt, Green Party, Herb Pond, BC Liberal Party and Jennifer Rice, NDP, took the stage at the Lester Centre of the Arts from 7 p.m. until 9 p.m. in the Prince Rupert and District Chamber of Commerce-hosted event. Photo contributed.

LNG, lumber, affordable housing the hot topics in North Coast debate

All three North Coast candidates stepped up to the plate on Monday night to pitch their platform.

All three North Coast candidates stepped up to the plate on Monday night to pitch their party platform and take questions from Prince Rupert residents.

Hondo Arendt, Green Party, Herb Pond, BC Liberals and Jennifer Rice, NDP took the stage at the Lester Centre of the Arts from 7 p.m. until 9 p.m. in the Prince Rupert and District Chamber of Commerce-hosted event.

The questions ranged from lack of affordable housing to whether ferries should be an essential service, to the controversy over raw log exports.

For most of the debate the three candidates stuck to their scripts but some Prince Rupert-specific issues were brought to the table.

Rice often used her time to blame BC Liberal leader Christy Clark for her government adding $11 billion to the debt, increasing the cost of rental rates and providing less support for the education system.

In return, Pond repeated that the leader of his party wasn’t in the room. His main message was that he would be a better representative for the North Coast and he would welcome opportunities to expand new and traditional industries in the area.

When one resident asked Rice specifically why voting for her for a second term would make economic sense for the community she responded, “I’ve done a great job at raising our issues.”

In her four years as MLA, she said is proud of introducing a bill that required regular testing of drinking water in schools, and she will continue to fight for the replacement of the Prince Rupert Middle School. Rice also repeated several times that the NDP would build 114,000 affordable housing units using B.C. wood and providing B.C. jobs.

In her closing statements, she directed viewers to read page 93 of her party’s full costed platform and stated, “We will make life more affordable.”

Pond said he will fight to bring resources to the North Coast. A question was directed specifically to Pond asking if, as MLA, he would be non-biased to the LNG (liquefied natural gas) industry.

In response, Pond said he left his position at Prince Rupert LNG when he was nominated, but he believes in the industry for the opportunities and jobs it will bring to the region.

In his final appeal to constituents he said “I think there is change afoot” and that he is best suited to be their representative.

Green Party candidate Arendt often redirected the debate back to the original question asked and repeated the importance of processing raw resources closer to where the resources are harvested, as well as the need to reinvest in education and health care — even if it means raising taxes.

He took the moral high ground when a question was asked about B.C. being the Wild West of party fundraising. His party doesn’t take any donations, which makes it harder to compete.

“We’re like the little engine that could,” he said and stressed in his closing speech that his party has gained votes in every election.

The debate drew an audience that filled one-third of the Lester Centre seats, and there were more questions asked than there was time for.

Advance voting is from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. on April 29-30 and May 3-6 at the Prince Rupert Public Library or at the Elections BC Office at 221 Third Avenue West from Monday to Friday, 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. and Saturday, 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. Residents can also vote by calling 1-800-661-8683 between noon and 6 p.m.

General voting on election day on May 9 is from 8 a.m. until 8 p.m. at the Jim Ciccone Civic Centre, or designated stations.

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