Conservative candidate Dick Harris pulls his speaking order number from a basket held by moderator Tom Bulmer before the all-candidates forum for the Cariboo-Prince George riding in Vanderhoof on Tuesday.

PG north candidates visit Vanderhoof

Candidates in the Cariboo-Prince George riding had a number of interesting questions thrown at them Tuesday evening in Vanderhoof.

Candidates in the Cariboo-Prince George riding had a number of interesting questions thrown at them Tuesday evening in Vanderhoof.

One of them listed the ‘perks’ of being an MP, including salary, travel allowance and expense account, then asked if the candidate would be willing to supply a resume for why they should get the job.

While almost all of the six candidates attending said yes, Conservative incumbent Dick Harris had one advantage, which he pointed out.

“Serving you in this riding for the past 18 years is my resume. I think it’s a good one.”

As at other forums in the riding, Liberal candidate Sangeeta Lalli was the only one missing from the table. The other six candidates had the opportunity to make an opening address, then respond to written questions from the floor. The time for answers was kept consistent, but short, to allow for more questions to be taken.

For many of the candidates, the opening address was a chance to tell the 60 or so in attendance why they are running in the May 2 election. The reasons varied, but for several, there was a common theme.

Henry Thiessen of the Christian Heritage Party said, “Politicians are running around buying votes with stolen money”; independent Jon Ronan said, “I’m unhappy with the way the country is being run, and there’s no political will to change”; and Jordan Turner of the Rhinoceros Party said, “There’s something wrong when 45 per cent of the people don’t vote.”

Ronan continued to attack the political system and politicians in many of his answers, eventually causing Harris to muse, “Someone doesn’t like politicians very much, so why does he want to be one?”

In an area where the downturn in the forest industry has had a major economic impact, it was no surprise that one of the questions asked what the different parties would do for forest renewal, and how it would help the riding. Harris said the current Conservative government had focused on working with the forest industry on an immediate basis to help weather the “triple threat” of mountain pine beetle, downturn in the American housing market and the strengthening Canadian dollar.

Heidi Redl of the Green Party said her party would launch a two-pronged initiative.

“We would ban whole-log exports right away. Every whole-log export means jobs lost here,” she said. “We would also focus on value-added manufacturing to get every possible dollar out of the wood.”

Ronan agreed with the need to end whole-log exports, but also felt the government should be more concerned with the future of the industry.

“The government has to do more replanting and leave the harvesting to the industry. There also needs to be more diversification in the forests.”

Thiessen prefaced his remarks by noting, “Can you believe it? Three of the six candidates here agree on something.”

He then added his support for the banning of whole-log exports, and said getting the industry going again should be left up to the private sector.

“The federal government can supply tax incentives to industry, but shouldn’t get directly involved.”

Jon Van Barneveld of the NDP made it four candidates opposed to whole-log exports, but also wanted to see federal pine-beetle money going directly to the communities affected, rather than the industry itself.

“We need to make a long-term investment in educations. Young people, myself excepted, are not going into the forest industry. That has to change.”

The candidates in the riding had forums in the Williams Lake area on Wednesday and Thursday, and will return to Prince George on April 26, as part of a pair of forums with the candidates from the Prince George-Peace River riding.

The forum runs from 7-8:30 p.m. at the downtown library, and will also be available online.

 

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