Hoping to become the Comox Valley’s next MLA, the four provincial candidates in the riding squared off Tuesday evening in front of a full crowd at the Filberg Centre.
The all-candidates’ forum hosted by the Comox Valley Chamber of Commerce was dominated by the proposed Raven Coal Mine, education, transportation, health care and seniors and legislative proceedings.
Incumbent Liberal Don McRae echoed leader Christy Clark’s stance from a week ago when asked about the coal mine, stating while he understands the implications, he will wait to read the environmental assessment.
“The conditions placed is what makes the project possible or not possible,” he explained. “The shellfish industry has to be protected — it’s absolutely vital.”
Green Party candidate Chris Aikman pointedly stated he opposes the project, and said he would do “everything to keep this from happening.”
NDP candidate Kassandra Dycke said 600 sustainable shellfish jobs are at risk, and she stands in concern with the community. Conservative candidate Diane Hoffmann explained she will wait for the environmental assessment, and will examine what is at stake and listen to the concerns expressed.
Asked later how the candidates would work and listen to local governments about their concerns with the proposed project, McRae stood behind the formal review process.
“The environmental assessment process required is the best in Canada. Yes, it’s not perfect, but in reality, many mines never come to fruition,” he said. “You have to have faith that if it’s a bad project, it deserves to be turned down.”
Dycke explained she fully supports and stands with the community and the position of local governments.
“The current environmental assessment process is like Swiss cheese — it’s full of holes,” said Dycke who added if the project is bad, it should stay only on paper.
Aikman added there have only been two projects that have ever been outright rejected by an environmental review.
“The conditions (placed on a project), if there is no enforcement, are meaningless,” he noted.
Hoffmann said she would continue talking to members of the community to try and find what would help those who are opposed.
When asked if any premier should have the power to cancel any legislative session, McRae defended his leader’s position to cancel the fall session.
“The spring session is designed to introduce new legislation, and the fall session is designed to talk about legislation that is not passed and to work on it and consult on new ones,” he explained. “If you spend all your days in Victoria, you don’t get to hear the rest of the province speak. The (citizens and stakeholders) can’t come to you.”
Aikman immediately shot back, noting citizens can easily communicate with their MLA.
“In this age of information, citizens can express their views over the Internet and you don’t have to travel all over,” he replied. “It’s time for elected representatives to get to work.”
Dycke noted a premier should not have the power to cancel a session. “We’re hired to do a job … we need to get on with the business of running B.C.”
Hoffmann agreed with Dycke, and added there is a job to do in Victoria.
Aikman suggested senior homes should be run as non-profits, with Hoffmann echoing Aikman noting she would strive to help seniors stay in their homes longer.
Dycke said there is a lot of work to do, and it is imperative to get the priorities straight.
“We need to invest in home care for seniors. We saw a 20-per-cent increase to private for-profit care under a Liberal government,” she noted. “We need to establish an independent senior representative in the province.”
McRae reminded the candidates it is the Catholic diocese that owns St. Joseph’s General Hospital, not the provincial government.
“We’ve budgeted $2.5 billion on home and community care. You have to remember we are the only province in Western Canada with more retirees then school-aged children.”
To watch a replay of the all-candidates meeting, visit www.livestream.com/mytechguys.
The 40th provincial general election is May 14. For more information on where and when to vote, visit www.elections.bc.ca.