Left to right — Roy Spooner, president of the Vanderhoof Chamber of Commerce, Tracy Calogheros, Todd Doherty, Mackenzie Kerr, Heather Sapergia and Jing Lan Yang. (Aman Parhar photo)

Cariboo-Prince George candidates address the housing crisis at forum

Questions from the public covered housing, forestry, healthcare, climate change, gender equality and more

Vanderhoof definitely wanted some answers from candidates during the All Candidate Forum held in the district on Oct. 10.

The Forum was held to introduce and question candidates running to be Member of Parliament for the Cariboo-Prince George riding. The event was organized by the Vanderhoof Chamber of Commerce and held at Nechako Valley Secondary School from 7 pm until 9 pm.

Members of the public did not disappoint, with easily over a hundred people in attendance.

The debate format first included introductions from all candidates. And then questions from members of the public.

These questions were not verbally asked, instead people were asked to write down their questions and submit to the moderator before the forum began. Once submitted, the moderator gave every candidate 60 seconds to respond to the question.

There are four women candidates from the riding this year. The five candidates present at the forum included — Tracy Calogheros from the Liberal Party, incumbent Todd Doherty from the Conservative Party, Mackenzie Kerr of the Green Party, Heather Sapergia from the New Democratic Party and Jing Lan Yang from the People’s Party of Canada.

Questions covered topics from healthcare, housing, technology, gender equality , LGBTQ+ rights, forest industry, mental health, immigration and others.

Even though it was difficult to explain their viewpoint on the topics within sixty seconds, the candidates were concise and kept decorum. They refrained from attacking each other for the most part and responded to the questions at hand.

One important question for Vanderhoof was around housing in rural resource communities and what the candidates would do to solve the problem.

Liberal Tracy Calogheros started the answer session with saying that housing is important in every community and is also different in every community. She said she is getting more of a sense of what individual communities need after conversing with mayor and council of those communities.

“My job as an MP is to make sure that the federal investment money that is out there is going into the communities in the areas that they need. So investments in long term care facilities. Investments in healthcare, investments in low cost housing and in being able to build rental housing.”

She referred to a project being undertaken in Prince George on First Avenue where they are building a healthcare system with 407 units to house the homeless. “That’s the way to go,” Calogheros said.

Incumbent Todd Doherty of the Conservative Party was next and he started off by saying that there is a growing demographic that is now moving into homeless shelters.

“That is some of our seniors. We have a growing issue in all our communities. I think Tracy said it well, we need to make sure that we are working with individual communities, mayor and council and regional district and provincial counterparts to really find a way of building a needs assessment to figure what these communities need. Whether it is a homeless shelter, affordable housing or housing for seniors,” he said.

The Green Party candidate Mackenzie Kerr was next and she said the Green’s want to legislate housing as a legally protected fundamental human right. “We are surprised that that it isn’t already,” she said.

“We really want to move in the direction of making housing affordable for people. We will appoint a minister of housing, unique to provinces because all of our communities have different needs,” Kerr said.

She said they want 25,000 new and 15,000 rehabilitated units annually for 10 years to help with the housing market right now.

“We also want to eliminate the first time homeowner’s grant that traps people into mortgages that they cannot afford,” she added, noting the party wants to move forward into affordable housing.

Affordable housing is the basis on which we can have healthy communities, she said.

NDP candidate Heather Sapergia, said they have a plan to build 500,000 new affordable housing units.

“It is becoming increasingly more difficult for young people to try and buy their first house and even rent is terrible,” she said.

Sapergia said the NDP wants to build housing for people across all income levels including the elderly and young couples. She said they would make these houses more environmentally friendly and they also have a program to retrofit homes upto environmental standards.

Lastly, People’s Party of Canada candidate Jing Lan Yang said their party’s stand is different from others.

“We believe in smaller governments. For housing, first we want to develop the economy and make it more affordable for people. Make people richer and make people have more money so they can afford a house,” she said.

Lan Yang said the PPC doesn’t believe in mass immigration which has caused the housing market in major cities to inflate.

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