Four of six candidates for the federal election May 2, stated their point of view and answered questions from North Islanders last week.
Incumbent John Duncan (Conservative), Mike Holland (Liberal), Ronna-Rae Leonard (NDP), and Sue Moen (Green) gathered April 14 in Port McNeill and April 15 in Port Hardy.
Several issues were talked about at each meeting and a recap of responses follows.
When asked for a simple yes or no to oil tankers on the North Coast of B.C. Leonard and Moen were quick to respond in the negative. Holland and Duncan said they would continue the current moratorium as it is.
While all the candidates agree aquaculture is important to jobs and the economy, incumbent Duncan was less hasty to insist the industry must move to land-based closed containment.
“This is a responsible and hard working industry trying to maintain their sustainability while it develops,” said Duncan. “It deserves to be supported rather than denigrated at every turn.”
Liberal Holland and NDP Leonard both called for more science to find the best way possible to farm fish, although Leonard felt the first move should be to land operations. Moen was adamant the industry must make the move to closed-containment because open-net fish farming is “not natural”.
All the candidates admitted the halibut allocation controversy is a complicated issue.
“The system is broken, it needs to adjusted,” said Holland. “I see a fair allocation of 20 for sportsfishing and 80 to commercial with adjustments annually.”
Leonard said the government needs to “rework the entire fishery structure”. Duncan replied that Canada has one of the best fishery systems in the world. He and Moen agreed that those involved in the halibut dispute need to sit down and work together for the benefit of all and Duncan committed one of his own staff to the effort.
No one thinks the military shouldn’t be well equipped, but Holland said the F-35 fighter jets ordered by the government to replace aging F-18s are “just silly”.
“This planes are overpriced,” said Holland. “They’re the cost of building the hospitals in Comox and Campbell River.”
Leonard aid “we don’t need the jets” and Moen agreed with Holland the F-35s were the wrong plane and overpriced.
Duncan defended his government’s action saying, “Our armed forces deserve nothing but the best.”
When outspoken senior Joe Skrlac came to the microphone in Port McNeill, he demanded an increase in benefits for seniors.
“The Liberals would enhance funding to seniors by $700 million a year,” said Holland. “And we would increase CPP (Canada Pension Plan).”
Leonard and Moen said their parties would also increase the CPP over a number of years and provide other supports for seniors.
“The budget was just crumb thrown to our poorest citizens,” said Leonard.
But Duncan defended his party’s record citing pension splitting, raising the Guaranteed Income Supplement and “other steps”.
Long gun registry
Jessica Eissfeldt, a hunter, asked candidates about the long-gun registry and if they would vote the party line or vote what their constituents wanted.
Duncan was succinct. He and his party want the registry gone.
Holland supports the registry, which was introduced by his party, saying police use it every day and that he is not opposed to hunting.
Leonard did not take a stand on the registry itself but said the private members bill to abolish the registry was an opportunity for MPs to vote independently.
Moen said “Green insists we vote for constituents first, party second.” But she added no MP is going ot represent all constituents all the time, so sometimes they must vote their conscious.