JOHN HARDING PHOTO North Island candidates pose for a photo before the all-candidates meeting in Port Hardy on Monday night. From left are: John Twigg (B.C. First Party), Sue Moen (Green Party), Claire Trevena (NDP) and Dallas Smith (B.C. Liberals).

North Island candidates talk issues: Trevena says hydro rates her No. 1 priority

Candidates spent almost three hours answering questions in Port Hardy on Monday night

Claire Trevena hammered home her party’s affordability message at an all-candidates meeting in Port Hardy last week, saying her “number one priority” was to bring fairness to BC Hydro rates for North Islanders.

About 60 people attended the event at the civic centre to hear candidates Soe Moen (Green Party), Dallas Smith (B.C. Liberals), Trevena (NDP) and John Twigg (B.C. First Party) talk about the issues. The meeting was organized by the Port Hardy Chamber of Commerce and moderated by local district councillor Dennis Dugas, who posed about 10 questions for each candidate to answer.

The candidates were given the questions prior to the event and there were no questions allowed from the audience, which didn’t sit well with some of the public in attendance.

About halfway through the almost three-hour meeting, Trevena said since there is no access to natural gas options on the North Island, BC Hydro’s two-tier system is “a disaster for people on the North Island. I have been raising this time and again as an injustice for the people of the North Island.”

The other candidates agreed and had put their own stamp on the issue. Smith said he wanted to explore what it would cost to get natural gas to the North Island and Twigg spoke about alternative energy plans like micro-hydro from creeks. Moen said the Green Party would put BC Hydro back under the responsibility of the B.C. Utilities Commission and she was not in favour of bringing natural gas to the North Island, preferring alternative energy source wind and geothermal.

Here’s a look at some of the questions/issues tackled by the candidates and highlights of their responses:

Issue: senior government support for the proposed North Island Multiplex project.

Moen said her party’s core principles include the establishment of a Ministry for Active Living which would support such facilities. Trevena said the NDP would “really build our economy by building community facilities.” Smith spoke about his experience working with decision makers at all levels of government and the need to “go beyond writing letters,” while Twigg said projects like this are needed all over the province.

Issue: old-growth logging.

All candidates agreed this was an emotional issue. Smith said that was particularly true among indigenous people and he also recalled a push by people from the south Island for an outright ban on old growth logging. “We had to sort of tell them to mind their own business,” he said.

Issue: the expansion of the aquaculture industry, specifically fish farming.

Smith said this was “another emotional issue” and he “has come out from the start of this supporting aquaculture where it’s wanted.” All the other candidates called for a transition to closed containment.

Issue: public school funding.

Trevena said there is “a generation of students who were lost because this (Liberal) government went to war with teachers.” Moen spoke about her party’s plans to increase education funding by $220 million starting in September, while Twigg said the “(Gordon) Campbell Liberals were disgraceful” on this issue. Smith said there has been government/teacher tension regardless of what party is in power and he also had pointed words about the former B.C. Liberal premier: “I thought Campbell was a creep too.”

Issue: recruitment and retention of health professionals for the North Island.

Moen said “our strategy doesn’t get into that much detail” and Trevena suggested “we have to be more inventive with incentives.” Smith agreed and added his own personal story. He said he has been hit by two trucks and has had two kidney failures. “I know how important medical services are for the North Island,” said the B.C. Liberal candidate.

Issue: B.C. Ferries.

Twigg said the ferry system has been “micro-managed to death by the B.C. Liberal bureaucrats” and Moen said B.C. Ferries should be brought back fully into the government fold as a Crown corporation. Smith spoke of his party’s plan to provide a 25 per cent tax rebate for people in ferry dependent communities and Trevena talked about restoring service to 2013 levels.

Issue: relationships with First Nations.

Smith, the former president of the Nanwakolas Council said we all have to avoid “meetings for the sake of meetings. Our lawyers have gotten rich.” He also stressed accountability for all parties. Smith and Trevena said the community-to-community meetings of recent times have been good. Moen said there needs to be more consultation with indigenous people, who are “co-managers and stewards of our natural resources.” Twigg said he believes “we do need to make more effort” and he was “glad to see Dallas running.”

Issue: homelessness and affordable housing.

“Housing is a human right,” said Moen. “It’s not a commodity, not an investment vehicle — it’s a home.” Trevena said an NDP government would be committed to building 114,000 housing units in its mandate and would deal with other, related affordability issues. Smith spoke about assistance and re-training for homeless people to “get them in a better place to re-build their lives.”

The provincial election is May 9.

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