Election nominees in Prince Rupert for mayor and council attended an all-candidates forum on Sept. 26 at the Lester Centre, hosted by the Prince Rupert and District Chamber of Commerce.

Election nominees in Prince Rupert for mayor and council attended an all-candidates forum on Sept. 26 at the Lester Centre, hosted by the Prince Rupert and District Chamber of Commerce.

Prince Rupert candidates heat up electoral conversation with port tax cap scrapping

All candidate’s forum hosted by Chamber attracted audience of more than 800

Scrapping the Port Tax Cap was the hottest discussion at the Prince Rupert All Candidates Forum with housing and health topics following close behind, on Sept. 26.

Public interest was piqued with the conversation evening hosted by the Prince Rupert and District Chamber of Commerce (PRDCC) having an audience of more than 850 participants combined at the performing arts center and online, said Daphne Thompson, president of PRDCC.

All 12 of Prince Rupert’s electoral candidates were present at the forum, including four who are running for mayor, Stephen Fitzpatrick, Jason Hoang, Herb Pond and Chrystopher Thompson, and eight who are running for councillor, Nick Adey, Andy Chugh, Barry Cunningham, Teri Forster, Sheila Gordon-Payne, Wade Niesh, Gurvinder Randhawa and Reid Skelton-Morven.

While all council and mayoral candidates have unanimously signed a “Scrap the Tax Cap” petition in support of doing away with the current limit on how much tax the port industries have to pay, the candidates had varying answers about why they are the best person to get results from the provincial government to eliminate it.

Pond believes the way to get the government to listen is to build an affiliation. He said that is how the city managed to get a container permit while he was mayor previously.

“We need to bring First Nations into this. They have a terrific say in what’s going on in the community. We need to bring other partners into a coalition that will go in and eliminate this tax,” Pond said.

Hoang told the audience that he was the best person to obtain results because of his successes in wrestling and chess.

“I think that my drive to succeed and my passion for success that no other candidates can match,” Hoang said.

Later on, when Skelton-Morven answered the question he asked what chess has to do with the Port Tax Cap.

Chrystopher Thompson started his response by emphasizing that he has no existing relationships or history working for multinational oil and gas companies and that he would never “spread anti-scientific lies about the environment and its effects on greenhouse gases.”

Similarly, Forster said, “I’m open to working with the Port, I’m new. I don’t have any promises that I made with them and I haven’t had any arguments with them.”

Forster, along with Adey and Chugh, focused on the position that one person alone cannot get results from the government, as such council will have to work together.

Niesh said the city has always played nice with the government trying to figure this out and it is time to show them, one last time, why they need to support the city’s efforts.

“I feel I’ve heard enough bullshit,” he finished.

Randhawa was the only candidate to pass on answering any of the questions during the event. When asked “What have you done to support the local LGBTQ+ community?” he declined to answer.

He later apologized for any offence he may have caused and explained he passed on the question because he didn’t understand it.

The majority of the questions were provided to the candidates in advance. However, the last few questions of the night came from the public and those on stage did not have a chance to prepare for them.

In their closing remarks, many of the councillor candidates highlighted their demographic differences.

Gordon-Payne brought up the lack of women currently sitting on the council.

“I am putting forward that we already know the research that women on boards and leadership groups make things more effective, more efficient and have better outcomes. I think we need all of those,” she said. Gordon-Payne and Forster are the only two female candidates.

Chugh focused on his demographic differences from the others, his age.

“It’s no secret that I’m the youngest candidate sitting on stage right now, I think you’ve all probably noticed that. I don’t think my age is a weakness, I consider it an asset,” he said.

He went on to say that it is his generation who will be directly impacted by the decisions council makes, as it is his generation who cannot afford to pay rent or buy a house, among other things.

In opposition, Cunningham, who was next to give his closing remarks, said he took offence.

“I know lots of seniors that can’t pay rent,” he retorted.

He and the other incumbent councillors spoke to the importance of some continuity in the council.

Recounting the evening, which was moderated by CBC Radio host Carolina De Ryk, with K-J Millar Editor of the Northern View, the president of the chamber said she received feedback that viewers liked this year’s format, which limited candidates’ responses to 30 seconds.

“They loved that everyone got to answer the questions and that it wasn’t just certain candidates that answered certain questions. They feel like they got to know the candidates a little bit better that way as well,” Thomson said.

The general election is Oct. 15, 2022, from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. BC Transit will be offering free service all day to help people get to the polls.

Kaitlyn Bailey | Local Journalism Initiative Reporter
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