Moderated by local lawyer Georges Rivard, each candidate was given time for an opening statement, followed by questions from the floor. Energy demands and resource development were at the forefront of the hour and a half question and answer period, along with discussion about healthcare, housing, education and transportation, and Fair Share.
Each of the Peace River North candidates made several promises to look for funding for things like seniors housing, public education and social services, with the possibility of charging students to take school buses eliciting the most passionate responses. Recent changes to the allocation of grants have reduced School District 60’s transportation funding by almost $550,000, and charging out of town students is being considered.
“It’s certainly something that’s a high priority for me; I don’t believe anybody should have to pay for busing services,” said Pimm, pointing out inequities in the system, including Tumbler Ridge receiving a bump in funding. “There’s an inequity there, I’m going to get it fixed, and I’m going to go on record that there won’t be anybody paying for bus service in this region.”
“I, too, am concerned about school buses,” retorted Hadland. “I guess my question is, if you spend $11 million holding Bollywood Awards on the coast, and then we take out of our school budget, maybe that’s misrepresenting the north.
Fox-McGuire was given an opportunity to clear up the issue of her party’s stance on the LNG industry and fracking, given rumours it plans for a two year moratorium on fracking.
“The Liberals have decided that the NDP is not in favour of the LNG,” she told the crowd. “[Adrian Dix] is in favour of LNG, he wants a scientific review of fracking, but he doesn’t want a moratorium on fracking. LNG is very important. It’s a driver of our economy, but forestry is, agriculture is, mining is. LNG is part of our economy but we have a huge economy.”
She assured the young lady, who asked how she could ensure the economy would stay strong enough that she won’t have to leave home, that she will have a job here. Both Fox McGuire and Sigurdson placed heavy emphasis on the importance of skills training.
“I’d like to see more apprenticeship programs in the high schools for kids in grade 10,” says Sigurdson, “that aren’t going to be doctors or lawyers and decide that they want a trade and get an apprenticeship when they get out of high school.”
The issue of Site C dominated much of the forum, with multiple residents specifically asking Pimm for his stance on the proposed dam.
“My government has been very clear they’re certainly in favour of Site C,” he explained, adding that his government allows him a free vote. “If the environmental assessment process does not take us in the right direction, I won’t be supporting Site C. I’ll be going where the environmental assessment goes.”
Earlier in the forum he and Sigurdson both said they consider Site C to be “green energy”.
“We’re not burning natural gas; it’s just water flowing through a dam. Seems green to me,” argued Sigurdson.
Hadland, who is openly anti Site C, disagreed, saying, “I think that destroying any river valley is never green, and how can it be clean if there’s all kind of greenhouse emissions coming off that project,” instead suggesting we look for alternatives like natural gas. Both he and Fox-McGuire want an independent review of the project by the B.C. Utilities Commission.
“The NDP has committed to sending the Site C development to the Utilities Commission,” said Fox-McGuire. “The utilities commission has been defunded and we need to fund it again so we can meet our needs.”
Another All Candidates Forum is scheduled for Peace River North on May 8 in Hudson’s Hope in advance of the May 14 election.