All Candidates Forum Held in Tumbler Ridge

Lynsey Kitching

Change is in store for the South Peace. Community members gathered at the community centre last Wednesday to listen and ask questions to all of our MLA candidates.

Parties represented include all the big players, the Liberals represented by Mike Bernier, Conservatives represented by Kurt Peats, NDP represented by our Mayor Darwin Wren and an independent candidate Tyrel Pohl.

Here are a few of the questions asked and the responses given from our candidates.

The federal conservative government has passed the Omnibus bill, which has unprotected many previously protected waterways in Canada. How do you plan to protect BC’s waterways?

Darwin Wren: Every corner of the South Peace, there is a concern about the water. We are going to move forward with legislation to protect ground water to ensure all communities have a safe, reliable source of water that is not going to be contaminated. We’ve been waiting for that legislation for some time and I was in a meeting in Dawson Creek recently where members of the Oil and Gas commission have said, we are waiting for legislation. If NDP are elected we are going to bring that forward as quickly as possible. For the folks of DC, they know what it looks like when there is a shortage of water. It is important we protect our waters.

Kurt Peats: In 2010, Gordon Campbell decided that they would sign over the jurisdiction of BC to national government. The Harper government said we are now going to take it away from the NEB and we are going to make it a political decision by the cabinet at the federal level. We want political and provincial jurisdiction on all projects that includes water, fracking and oil and gas development. That has got to be local and provincial.

Tyrel Pohl: We need to move towards keeping our water safe so we can use it all the time. We need to find a balance. I think what we should do is work together with all the different branches of federal government, provincial and the environment. Everyone needs to work together and come to a consensus on how we use our water. I think we can make everything whole if we work together instead of fighting.

Mike Bernier: What’s happening in BC is we have the water modernization act; we have the oil and gas act, which is already done here in British Columbia. Where we need to take it a step further to your point is when we have specific issues around water jurisdictionally, which are mostly title waters. Those are the things we need to make sure we have control of because we have a lot of projects we are looking at in BC that could be coming through, we have to make sure the provincial government is at the table and they have a say. Right now there is an environmental assessment going through which is a joint review panel with the BC environmental assessment board and the federal. What we need to make sure is that our voice there is just as loud.

What are the candidates’ views on the proposed Enbridge pipeline?

Darwin Wren: Our position on that is extremely clear, we are against it. The pipeline, if it were built would certainly be a benefit to Alberta. Right now, British Columbians, we need to focus on building a pipeline to get our own natural gas to the port to get the LNG facilities built. That is what is going to make BC wealthy and strong. Building a pipeline for Alberta to bring bitumen through our area, putting our environment at risk with very few jobs and a long term burden of the environment is simply not worth it.

Kurt Peats: We are for the pipeline, we are for development. When raw oil or heavy crude begins to ship, we know that’s far safer than shipping it by truck, or shipping it by rail. We know that as technology begins to develop, we know that with emergency shut off valves you can isolate a km section of pipe within a millisecond. It’s the balance that is critical. As I look out here that baby boom generation, we are aging. We are going to need some help; senior housing, additional medical care, how are you going to pay for it?

Tyrel Pohl: The pipeline is an issue for me. I believe yes we need it but we need to have things in place to make sure that if it does rupture that we have procedures and quick responses because without that we can ruin our forest and BC.

Mike Bernier: I think the 10 billion dollars that David Black is talking about spending in Kitimat is actually a lot of money in BC. It is also going to bring in a lot of jobs. It is something that I have been out speaking on for about three years now. How do we get to a point where things can be done safely? If it can’t, than we have to stand up and stay no. I am 100 percent behind environmental process and making sure all risks are identified. We know the revenues that can come from this. At the end of the day if it can’t be done, that’s when we say no.

Where do you stand on Site C?

Mike Bernier: The BC liberal party has been speaking out in favour. It has been a government initiative for 35 years. This isn’t just about LNG in Kitimat. What Site C is looking at is how do we plan for the future? Now, everybody has to have a power bar on every single plug in every single room to power what we need and that’s going to get worse. Our province has estimated to double in size in the next 20 years. In high peak times in the winter we have to buy power from the US. We want to be energy self-sufficient in BC. When we talk about needing Site C, LNG is definitely part of it, but there is natural gas in the short term we can use for power generation. Personally I sit on the Site C advisory board I am really in tune to what is happening there and the questions being asked. There are people who have come forward about how to do it better or how not to do it at all and have had other initiatives come forward. I think all those people need to be heard.

Tyrel Pohl: I’ve done a lot of looking into the costs for Site C. I am against it. Site C is going to cost about eight billion dollars, probably closer to 16 billion. My big issue is how much debt is BC Hydro in? They have 13.5 billion dollars in debt, plus another 6.5 billion now. That is a lot of money. You tack another 16 billion on top of that you’re looking at 36 billion. How do you let a crown corporation go that far into debt? I believe that because it will cost so much we should be looking at a different avenue. Natural gas generation that is a good idea. The United States is doing a lot of research on that, and it is probably how they are going to power their country. That is the way we should go. On top of the 26 billion that is in BC Hydro there is another 30 billion that is owned to independent power producers. When you look at it they have about 50 billion dollars in debt, how do you pay that off? Well you sell it. And that’s what I believe. They are going to eventually sell it so we have privatized power and we will be paying double, triple what we pay now.

Kurt Peats: I’ve come out against Site C for a couple of reasons. One – Gordon Campbell told us that we are going to have a power shortage that we need power. Christy Clark then said, no no, we need power for LNG. The reality is, what are our options? Who owns the resources out there? You do. You elect a government and you say we give you that power; we give you that authority to make decisions on our behalf. The government needs to have all the information at the table. We need to bring options to the table be it natural gas, wind power. It doesn’t matter if you agree with it or not, that’s not the point. The point is you need to have all of the information on the table so that the government can make the most intelligent decision because these are long-term decisions that are going to effect generations.

Darwin Wren: We are definitely not in favour of building Site C at this time. We have all heard that Site C needs to be built to power the LNG, well in fact that’s not true. We’ve done the research; we have an abundance of natural gas that can produce hydro if needed. Beyond that we look at the cost of Site C, if we are building it for an LNG facility, but we are asking the tax payers to spend eight or 10 billion dollars of your money for a resource that is going to be used for three natural gas processing plants on the west coast that are not owned by the people. Why are we asking the people to pay for this? I think there are better ways for us to spend eight or 10 billion dollars to change the lives of the people who live right here. I’m not finding very many people saying lets build Site C.

There are many people with disabilities living in poverty. I would like to know if and how you will address this?

Kurt Peats: We know that all it takes is a heartbeat and you are in a position of financial reversal. If you have a heart attack, if you get a disease if you get a divorce, if you get a fire, all of a sudden we are in a position where we need help. The mark of any civilization is how you treat the most vulnerable. BC does not have a revenue problem, we have a spending problem. All of you have seen the wasted tax dollars out there. We can redirect those tax dollars and refocus them to the people who need it.

Darwin Wren: As many of you know I work in the health field, so I work with people with different types of disabilities. One of things I see through that work is that people are struggling. From 2002 to 2010, BC had the highest child poverty rate in the country. Something has to change. What we have is a problem of management. The budgets are not being managed effectively, the resources we have in the north and south peace represent about 40 percent of the revenue from this whole province. We’ve seen the inequality between the rich and poor grow and we’ve seen the middle class shrink. Government is about taking care of the people when they are in need. It is about investing your tax dollars into the services that the government is mandated to provide.

Mike Bernier: If we can get people employed, it helps get people out of poverty. If we get investment in the province, that creates jobs. There are people, who are in restrictive conditions that require help. We need to step up and help. One of the best ways we can do that is to have a strong economy in British Columbia. If we don’t have revenues coming in to pay for the programs we want and deserve, than what are we going to do? We need to be doing it with jobs.

Tyrel Pohl: I don’t have much experience in this area, but I believe people who have become disabled through work, or are mentally disabled, we need to find ways to retrain these people and to be able to help them keep going. If we can’t, we need to look into more government programs to make sure they are looked after. What we need is more health care workers. We need to move forward. We need to make sure we look after them first and everyone else second.

What does sustainability mean to you?

Darwin Wren: Sustainability in my opinion means you are looking at the overall picture. All of your resources, you are evaluating them, you are monitoring them, you are investing your revenue into renewable resources, that is key. It is taking a balanced approach across the board with all your resources.

Kurt Peats: Why do we hear that word all the time? Because there is no trust in the checks and balances that we have in place now. We know that if we allow foreign companies to come in and begin mining, who is watching them? Who is watching our environment? Who is watching the air? Who is watching the water? When you begin to pull money away from our eyes and ears, our sustainability becomes our battle cry and it’s important. Sustainability means to me, monitoring of all the projects that are going on with real monitoring. With enforcement agencies with real teeth, levy real fines and real penalties because as soon as you levy mines and penalties you know that enforcement works and the compliance model does not work. The few bad actors have to be hammered hard.

Tyrel Pohl: I look at it this way. I have my life style that I like to live so I have to have the money to live this lifestyle. I believe that we need the money and the resources to maintain what we are doing. We can’t be writing a cheque for one million dollars when we can’t spend $500,000. I believe sustainability comes in as we need to be able to have our cheques cashed.

Mike Bernier: To me, sustainability is about balance and planning. That word is thrown around for everything, environment, economy, it’s like a trademark word for everything. What it means to me is making sure that 20 years from now we don’t look back and say we screwed up. It is making sure today we are making plans for tomorrow. I’m not going to get up here on this one and say jobs, jobs, jobs. Dawson Creek is in the middle of the oil and gas right now, the big boom. We are also being recognized as one of the most sustainable cities in the country. I went to Ottawa and spoke on this because they wanted to know how we do it. Right now, with all the activity going on how do we stay sustainable? Well, it’s about planning out what we need for the next generation. It is about sustainability in the region because we have different issues. To me, sustainability is long-term and balance.

Check back next week for the rest of the responses covering topics like education, the carbon tax, the mining industry and MSP fees.