Deregulation of forest and mining industries, liquified natural gas, steep-slope logging, young people’s views on the environment, the agricultural land reserve.
These were just a few of the topics that two candidates in the race for the Shuswap riding faced on Wednesday night in Salmon Arm.
While the topic of the forum was the environment, questions also strayed into issues of poverty, treatment of people with disabilities, current billion-dollar provincial debt and more.
Facing questions and about 70 audience members were Green Party candidate Kevin Babcock and New Democratic Party candidate Sylvia Lindgren. Incumbent Liberal MLA Greg Kyllo did not attend nor did Libertarian candidate Kyle McCormack, who didn’t declare his candidacy until the deadline day.
Opening and closing remarks from the candidates included three speakers, not two.
“The Liberal candidate refused to attend so Jim Cooperman has offered to provide a summary of the Liberals’ policies,” said Anne Morris as she opened the forum.
Cooperman is president of the Shuswap Environmental Action Society (SEAS), one of the groups sponsoring the forum.
Black Press asked Kyllo after the forum why he didn’t attend and he said he’s doing six forums, only those hosted by the chambers of commerce. He said door-knocking is also a focus of his campaign, which he was doing in Sicamous that night.
“Obviously the election’s on a lot more than just the environment and so we wanted to focus on the all-candidates forums that have a bit broader range of interest.”
Kyllo said it is odd that Cooperman took the stage because of his absence.
“That’s a little presumptuous of himself to take on the role of being the spokesperson for the BC Liberal government.”
He was assured the audience appeared clear Cooperman was providing his concerns about the Liberal government’s environmental record, not acting as a spokesperson for the government.
In opening remarks, NDP candidate Sylvia Lindgren said she has worked in a number of areas in education and health care, including as a paramedic. She said the environment has always been important to her as she grew up in northern mining towns where her father was a mining engineer. Her family spent a lot of time fishing and camping and her first camping trip was when she was six months old.
She said many of the most important things she’s learned, she learned in nature, such as “teamwork is almost always the answer.”
Babcock said he’s been in the labour force for 20 years so looks at policies from a labour perspective.
He said he sees changes concerning the environment as a revolution in the making. The Green Party has been looking at science and the environment “before there was a Green Party,” he said, emphasizing how people build the economy and produce jobs must focus on the environment for the long term.
The candidates were asked about the relationship between the development of LNG, fracking and the Site C dam.
Babcock said the need for household electricity in B.C. is decreasing, not rising, so the only need for the Site C dam is to provide power for the LNG plants, which use a lot.
“If you get rid of fracking, there’s no need for the dam.”
He said the Green Party is against the shipping of LNG, which just adds to greenhouse gases and more pollution.
B.C. should be building its communities, not spending all its money on such infrastructure projects, he urged.
Lindgren said she is not sure why B.C. is pursuing fracking.
“Getting it out of the ground is three times dirtier than coal,” she said, adding that fracking has been associated with more than 1,000 earthquakes in northern B.C.
“Why take what’s called clean energy to pull dirty energy out of ground?” she said of hydroelectric power and fracking.
A question about deregulation brought in “under the guise of erasing red tape,” noted that the Mount Polley mine spill is a total disaster, because taxpayers are paying for clean-up while the company is not, and the company has now been told it can dump its mess into the lake.
Regarding deregulation, Lindgren pointed to Swansea Point where Tolko has applied for about a dozen new cut blocks.
She said families who had to leave the area after slides did not receive assistance from government, industry or insurance.
“Five families got together to sue the government and won.”
She said deregulation of industries is putting the fox in the hen house and pretending “everybody’s going to be fine.”
Babcock said the Green Party would open up different ministry positions to provide stronger protection in different industries, as well as adequate enforcement.
“There’s no point having regulations if you don’t have the backbone to stand up for your words.”
Another question was about the Agricultural Land Reserve, described as decimated. Both candidates said they support it and local food supplies.
Babcock referred to the flooding of the Peace River Valley for the Site C Dam.
“We could feed half of B.C. with that. All of those northern communities could produce food for themselves.”
One of the questions that generated the most applause from the audience was, “What’s your biggest obstacle to becoming elected?”
Lindgren said with a lot of conservatives in the riding, opening up people’s minds to a new way of thinking is necessary. Then, with her voice faltering at one point, she spoke of her father’s history of not voting NDP. She was nervous about telling him which party she is running for. When she did, he revealed that he voted for the NDP in the last election.
“I think if my dad can change his mind at 76, we can change our minds too.”
Babcock said: “We are where we are, this is what we have to work with. It doesn’t matter who causes problems in the past… These are the problems we have now.”
In the last election, he noted, 40 per cent of the riding was doing something other than voting last time around.
“Whether it was TV or at work, something was holding them back. It took me about 20 minutes to walk down to the hall, scratch my head and make a mark on a piece of paper.”
He said if people are concerned about business opportunities, the message must be turned around to show that preserving the environment – things like investing in wind and solar energies which are booming – is good for the pocketbook.