Shuswap Green candidate Chris George speaks alongside fellow candidates (from left) Liberal Greg Kyllo

Shuswap Green candidate Chris George speaks alongside fellow candidates (from left) Liberal Greg Kyllo

Forum attracts a crowd

Broad range of topics take spotlight as Armstrong/Spallumcheen residents question Shuswap candidates

A broad range of topics took the spotlight as Armstrong/Spallumcheen residents took in the Shuswap candidates’ debate Wednesday.

Rural health care, decriminalization, smart meters, jobs, the economy, Enbridge, child poverty, electoral reform, government accessibility and downloading onto municipalities were among the variety of questions posed.

About 125 people packed the Centennial Theatre for the Armstrong Spallumcheen Chamber of Commerce forum, where all candidates but Johanna Zalcik, with the Advocational International Democratic Party, showed up for the debate.

The fact that young people are leaving the province for more and higher-paying jobs was one concern candidates shared their thoughts on.

“If they want to stay and they can’t that is tragic,” said Conservative Tom Birch. “We have to bring jobs back to B.C.

“We have to keep taxes low, we have to spend smarter, we have to encourage investment in the province.”

Green candidate Chris George says B.C. needs to stop exporting its resources.

“We can do better in our communities with our natural resources. We don’t have to take these resources and give them to somebody else and buy it back from them so they make the wealth.”

New Democrat Steve Gunner agrees with George.

“We’ve taken 30,000 jobs out of the forest industry in the last decade. What we need to be doing is investing in local diverse and innovative jobs…we need to be investing in education. There are other things we need to be doing around making jobs a priority.”

Liberal Greg Kyllo points out that B.C. isn’t alone in the current economic situation.

“The challenges we have in B.C. largely are global.”

Despite the problems, he points out that the province has become less reliant on the U.S. and he pointed to various infrastructure projects that are focused on job creation.

“The value or strength of a nation is reflected on its infrastructure.”

When it comes to Canada’s resources and job creation, Kyllo points out that the Enbridge pipeline will help.

“We need to work our federal government to try to work with our neighbours to get our product to market.”

Birch agrees.

“We are 100 per cent committed to working with Alberta to bring our product to market.”

Gunner says the people need to be listened to about their concerns and the project needs to better benefit B.C.

“The pipeline is going to go through regardless of what the review panel finds out. But you cannot simply push them (project) across the ground and expect people to buy into it.”

The Greens are dead against the plan.

“The Green Party position is simple: no tankers, no pipelines,” said George. “There is no such thing as a zero risk pipeline, there is no such thing as a zero risk tanker.”

Another controversial topic raised was smart meters.

“There is so much that can be said on smart meters and none of it is good,” said Birch, who proposes an opt-out option.

George agrees with that option: “We are currently living in the largest uncontrolled experiment ever in terms of wireless technology.”

Gunner says 30 per cent of the 30 people seen in just one day of campaigning indicated they wanted an opt-out option.

“They (smart meters) have been implemented on society with the same degree of finesse as the HST and meat regulations.”

But Kyllo defends the meters.

“It (current technology) is 50 years old. If you can’t measure it you can’t manage it,” he said.