The local race for the provincial 2013 election was kicked into high gear last night (May 2) when all four candidates participated in the Kicking Horse Country Chamber of Commerce’s All Candidates Forum.
Each candidate answered 14 questions from the floor, with topics ranging from the economy, to childcare, to the environment, to political ethics.
The economy is undoubtedly in a tough spot right now, but Liberal candidate Doug Clovechok says that we don’t need to look too far into the future for a solution, jobs are being created right now.
“You want to know how we’re going to create jobs in the Shuswap Columbia, it’s happening right now,” he said, giving the re-opening of the Canfor mill as an example. “Eight new mines are opening… The NDP killed the mining industry, they killed the forestry industry. They’re the job killers of the ’90s, folks, don’t forget that.”
NDP candidate (two-time MLA) Norm Macdonald disagreed, saying that the current government needs to take responsibility for the economy.
“What government needs to do is provide predictable governance, and competent governance. The Liberals have been neither trustworthy, nor competent,” said Macdonald. “At a time when we were inevitably going to have some problems, all the government could do is make it worse.”
Earl Olsen, running for the BC Conservatives, pointed to high taxation as a major barrier to economic growth.
“The Conservative Party believes that taxation and restrictions on business are directly related to what we’re going to get out of our economy,” said Olsen. “One of the things we believe has to go away is the Carbon Tax… It’s a behavioural tax, it’s trying to change what we think and what we do, but basically, we have no options. Who can drive that much less, or get on the bus in this area? It’s not a fair tax.”
Laurel Ralston, Green Party candidate, is excited about her party’s proposed Green Venture Capital Fund, which would support new businesses that are going in “green” directions.
“We’ve backed this up in our platform as well, making training available for skills that are going to be relevant in the future, as well as in establishing co-operatives,” she said. “So we would invest in that fund, as well as associated programs that are going to be supporting the people who will use that money.”
The final question of the evening came from one of the youngest people in attendance. Teenager Ron Potter asked the candidates how they were going to keep young people like himself in Golden.
All four candidates agreed that it is not necessarily a bad thing for youth to go out and broaden their horizons, but it is important to make sure the opportunities are there for them to come back.
“Kids leave to make a living,” said Olsen, adding that if we have proper training in town for the jobs of the future, then we can not only attract young workers, but business as well. “To lose kids to the North, it’s sad. We need to make sure they can make a living here.”
“It’s natural to want to leave… I grew up in Ottawa and I wanted to leave,” said Ralston, recalling how she settled in Kimberley. “But when you go out and see the world, you bring back new ideas… and sometimes you bring back your friends.”
Clovechok said that he sees many young people leaving the valley to “have an adventure,” but is happy to see that many of them come back. As long as there is training for the jobs that are going to be available here, youth will come back he says.
“If you leave, we want you to come back… But there have to be jobs for you, and that’s not going to come from taxation,” he added.
Macdonald agreed that jobs and training is the key factor in keeping youth in town, and thinks that the upcoming highway project should help with that.
“There are opportunities coming… But there is a gap between the skills that are needed, and the skills that people have,” said Macdonald. “There are clear things in the NDP program that deal with skills training and try to fill in that gap.”
Check the May 8 issue of the Golden Star for more from the All Candidates Forum.