Feature Story Monday April 16, 2012
BC Liberal Ship Sinking Like A Sunset
NDP favoured to take Chilliwack-Hope riding on Thursday
Craig Hill/Voice photos
By-election candidates Gwen O'Mahony, John Martin (C) and Laurie Throness share a moment of brevity during an intense public forum hosted by the Chilliwack Teachers Association last Thursday.
p until last Thursday, the public hadn’t a chance to openly question Hope-Chilliwack by-election candidates John Martin, Gwen O’Mahony or Laurie Throness.
Katharin Midzain, president of the Chilliwack Teachers Association, realized this and had the wherewithal to organize an all-candidates meeting where about 130 people packed themselves into the McAstock Theatre at Sardis Secondary School. Libertarian Party candidate Lewis Dahlby was a no-show.
Questions covered a diverse range of topics.
While Liberal candidate Laurie Throness thumbed through a tabbed binder with scripted responses, his rivals, NDP candidate Gwen O'Mahony and Conservative John Martin, ad-libbed theirs.
O’Mahony suggested the time was right for a change of pace and that the election is a great opportunity to put her on probation for the next year.
“You don't actually change government, you change representation and it is much like applying for a job,” she said.
Regarding splitting the vote, Martin said the Liberals shouldn’t be automatically bequeathed all undecided and stray votes, but voter trust needs to be earned.
On the issue of twinning the Kinder Morgan bitumen pipeline, Throness indicated it's all but a done deal and suggested that pipelines will benefit the communities they pass through such as First Nations in northern BC. The Chilliwack segment of the project is slated to happen in May 2013, possibly before the election, so it wasn’t clear what Throness was suggesting when he said it would take years for the environmental assessments to take place.
In March, representatives from Kinder Morgan gave a presentation at Chilliwack City Hall and later told the Voice that it was a simple upgrade. See our City Hall coverage of that story here.
Obviously, Kinder Morgan thought Chilliwack was a push and that no one would care about a 60-year old pipeline after the "upgrade" project was given easy approval by council back in March, because last week the company revised plans to “expand” on their upgrade plans on existing line running through Rosedale, Chilliwack and Greendale.
While Throness tried to soft pedal the pipeline, Martin came out swinging at it, questioning how much stock could be put into a federal assessment review and calling it a massive project that won’t be a ditch, but a “canal” running through town.
“I think we have a hell of a fight on our hands,” he said.
Martin proved once again why politics needs more intellectuals, but then it doesn't take a rocket scientist to see what the Liberals are doing.
He chewed up the Liberal candidate over his party's fear mongering against the NDP.
“The Liberals have had 11 years to build a legacy and after 11 years all they can say is 'vote for us or you get the big scary NDP.'"
When the issue of Tycrop came up, Throness said as a provincial MLA he would have nothing to do with it and any interference, or influence-pedaling, would be against the law, and then in the next sentence said he toured the facility back in February.
What doesn’t make sense is that if Throness wasn’t trying to influence people, then why was he touring Tycrop’s facility in the first place when he's not an MLA?
From the voter’s perspective, O’Mahony was the most popular of the candidates at the meeting and garnered the most applause.
Ironically, Throness got the most applause when he thanked the other candidates at the end of the evening.
If the response candidates received from voters at the meeting was any indication of the by-election outcome, and most feel that it is, then it will be O'Mahony's riding in a walk.
Clearly, Martin isn’t looking at this by-election in terms of winning it. That’s because the BC Conservatives are not tried, true and tested. He knows that. But Martin is looking at the big picture and his goal is much more grandiose than that. But first he needs voter trust.
Martin has done more than anyone else to set-up the party to becoming the official opposition after the provincial election next year, which many are saying will be the end of the BC Liberal Party and their magnificent decade of the new millennium. Mark your calendars and these words too.
O’Mahony is tailor-made for the job as Chilliwack-Hope MLA. Her political career has been built upon, and influenced by some of the greatest people in the community. Each of her successes nurtures and drives an even more passionate desire in her to strive for what the community wants.
When voters send someone to Victoria as their representative, they want someone who is accessible to them and understands what the issues are. O’Mahony knows that the only way to understand an issue is to go out into the trenches and get muddy with the rest of them. What can you say? She’s Irish.
Editors Note: It’s a privilege to be able to deliver to your home, office or skateboard, full coverage of the all-candidates meeting hosted by Chilliwack Teacher’s Association and thanks to President Katharin Midzain for inviting the Voice. Unlike print media, the Voice brings you the entire picture and below you'll find the complete transcripts from Thursday's public forum.
Throness: I'm hearing from teachers who are angry at the government. Some who are dissatisfied with their own union.
I'm hearing from parents and they're unhappy with the BCTF as well as those who are angry with the government.
But by far the majority are taxpayers who are unhappy with higher taxes and so I as a candidate really feel pressed between these competing objectives. And make no mistake, I'm not here applying to be part of the union, I'm applying to be part of management and I'm going to be representing taxpayers in this whole debate and as you know there's a long history in Canada of union-management behaviour and it tends to be adversarial.
But in my style, to dial the temperature down. It would be to my political advantage to raise the temperature, because most taxpayers, the majority are unhappy with higher taxes.
But its easy to stir up conflict. It's hard to make peace and I will lower the temperature and have a peacemaking influence in this debate. So within the constraints the government is operating, I think some elements of peacemaking could include recognition of the excellent paid and volunteer work that teachers do. I think it would include an understanding of what I would call 'the increasing social load' that teachers bear in the classroom.
I have sympathy for them and finding my own willingness to listen rather than to speak. So I want to say to you tonight that I'm not an expert on Bill C-22 and don't claim to be.
As management we hire people who are experts on these things. I'm here to listen to you and I really do aspire to represent everyone in Chilliwack-Hope whether or not they agree with me or my government and that's why I'm here tonight. So, I'm looking forward to your insights and the insights of fellow candidates.
O'Mahony: Ladies and gentlemen, today, there are two opponents beside me; one who is really great at finger pointing and another opponent who is in the uncomfortable position of having to make excuses, but I hope at the end of this day, that what you'll see in me as your NDP candidate is hope for this province. We've got a great potential. Hope for my community because if I can't instill that in you then I can't be a different leader and that's what I hope comes from the question period today. I'm Gwen O'Mahony and I am your NDP candidate.
** We experienced audio difficulties and apologize to Mr. Martin for having to omit his introductory comments.
On Independent Power Projects - Voice question
Throness: There are about 43 independent power projects that the government has approved since about 2003. They provide about 20 per cent of our electricity, about 1.4 million homes.
The electricity is a little more expensive, but it does mean that they are a private run and built and we do not incur expenses for building them and maintaining them and decommissioning them.
So I think they're a good deal and they are also a good deal for First Nations people. There are about 125 First Nation bands that are involved with IPPs and this is a tremendous economic opportunity for them.
So while they provide clean power, there is no risk to the taxpayer. We're helping some of the people in BC who are the neediest people.
Martin: Last Saturday I was door-knocking and one of the individuals I ended up spending way much more time speaking on the doorstep than a candidate's supposed to, but he's involved in one of these projects and I was very impressed at the diligence that he told me the company was doing. Because there's a lot of concerns about the damage that's taking place to the environment and some other issues, and I was absolutely taken aback at how thorough this particular group that's based out of Abbotsford.
Its early on in that process and we don't know how sound these are going to be, economically. Certainly there was a lot of fear when it sounded like there was going to be several hundred of them coming into existence all at once. I want to say that the jury is still out on that and it's something that we're going to have to pay considerable attention to in the immediate future.
O'Mahony: The Independent Power Projects, as my Liberal opponent has pointed out, are more expensive, but what he failed to say is that they're more greatly more expensive, and we're contracted into that. Though its a great deal for the independent power projects to build these as "we" will be paying for it, and that's a big concern I have.
We believe, and we've always believed since the beginning, that BC Hydro should be involved in power production. They shouldn't be left out. If there is going to be any kind of independent power project, it should be done within a public model, not a private one.
We have a great deal of contractual expenses and they might produce about 20 per cent of the power but it costs almost 50 per cent in costs, in the data that I've seen so far. So, I think it's disturbing in terms of the cost of the IPPs. Not to mention the fact that we don't know what the cumulative impact is sheer numbers in the number of power applications that were put in.
On Campaign Strategies
Robert Freeman, Progress: In this by-election campaign, the BC Liberals were focusing their campaign on the NDP, but lately it seems that the BC Liberals are focusing their campaign message more towards the BC Conservatives. Has there been some sort of change in your campaign strategy in the last little while?
Throness: Our campaign strategy has always been to be factual and to relate to the voters the threat that the NDP represents. It's also been our desire to be factual about the Conservatives and especially to tell people and let people know that Mr. Cummins actually voted NDP in the 2009 election. Meanwhile there was a Conservative on the ballot.
In fact, Mr. Cummins said the other day that he doesn't really care that the NDP might win. That he would rather vote NDP than Liberal. I think that's a problem. I'm a very small-c Conservative and I'm going to be consistent in voting Conservative. I wouldn't vote NDP for any reason. So we need to be consistent about that. And so, we're pointing out both of these things. We're pointing out the danger of the "split" and we're pointing our the problems with the NDP poses as well to the province.
Martin: 2010, Conservatives were not in the game. We didn't have a leader. We didn't have any money. We were way down single digits. The NDP was 25 pts. ahead of the Liberals. The Liberals were fully on their way to giving this province lock, stock and barrel over to the NDP without us being a factor.
So I'd like to stop with this vote-splitting scenario because the Liberals don't own all those votes from anyone who isn't an NDP supporter. They don't own them. Those votes have to be earned. They shouldn't be given to the Liberals by default, because 'Vote for us or you'll get the big scary NDP'.
The Liberals have had 11 years to build a legacy and at after 11 years all they can say is vote for us or you get the NDP.
That's the most aspiring thing you can campaign on. It's just not good enough.
So hopefully, Mr. Throness will have an opportunity to respond. I would have a question if I was sitting out there and that would be; Laurie, if you end up with less votes than John Martin on election day, will you concede that you're the one vote-splitting and it's time for the Liberals to pack up their tent and go home.
O'Mahony: All along my campaign has been consistent. Yes, my leader's been attacked and there were negative ads on the radio constantly. Even during one meeting Adrian and I were speaking to a pharmacist and there these attack ads were running like crazy.
We said we weren't going to respond in like. The reason why is because people have said that 'we're sick and tired of that kind of politics' and that it's difficult to not want to fight back, but we didn't. And you'll know that because you didn't hear attack ads, you didn't see attack ads period.
What I'm saying during this campaign with all this discussion and fear mongering of the "evil" NDP, is that this is a wonderful opportunity to send a message of change to a government, but you don't actually change government, you change representation and it is much like applying for a job. In fact, that's exactly what it is.
Here's the best part for you as a voter; you get to put me, if you vote for me, on probation for a year and try me out and you know I've got a lot of energy. Nobody's knocked on as many doors as I have.
On the BCTF
Throness: The government has appointed a mediator and that mediator is going to help them negotiate a contract, a net-zero contract. Let me say what a net-zero means. It doesn't mean zero increases. It means that in the end, changes can be made, but it can't result in more money other than the $165 million dollar learning improvement fund that the government also mandates.
So, there can be change within that constraint. That constraint is not an arbitrary constraint. Okay? We spend 66 per cent of our provincial budget on two things; healthcare and education. Healthcare and Education are our top two priorities. And if we want to balance the budget, and I think we must balance the budget, and that's what's mandated in our budget that Mr. Falcon put out on February 21st, then we have to negotiate a net-zero, and I might add that we've already done that with $130 million. There's all sorts of me too clauses. If we were to change the bill, we would have to go back to all those $130 million and that would cost billions. And so I'll leave you with that. I don't think we can change legislation. It's a matter of fiscal responsibility.
Martin: We supported the legislation in principal. We were concerned that the premier decided not to sit in the House over the weekend so we could have gotten this done, rather than having classes disrupted.
Having said that, let me speak a little bit about the context here.
I'm biased. I'm an educator. So I've got my bias here. Bill C-22 came out of a very, very toxic environment. The BCTF was being extremely militant, extremely unreasonable, and probably most shamefully they occasionally do things and actually push public opinion against the teachers.
That's not the case. Teachers are doing a wonderful job. Negotiating with the BCTF, that's endearing. Every government has dealt with that. it doesn't matter who's in power. We expect that. We just know that that's how it works.
The problem is, the government needs to hit the high road. They need to do better. And the government has an obligation to play responsibly. They tear up contracts.
How can a teacher think that these negotiations are going to be above board when here's a government that tears up contracts? A deal's a deal, even if you don't like it later on. I mean this isn't like a Ferengi business pact, business practices. Right? A deal is a deal and when you tear up contracts, when you try to use parents and students, and disrupting class, attacking teachers, simply to help address your plummeting poll numbers is absolutely disgraceful. The government has no business putting education on the line as a negotiating pulley to try and help their standing in the polls. We deserve better.
O'Mahony: I guess I have to question why we had this legislation put in, in the first place. It's just been a waste of time.
There have been fair negotiations. Collective bargaining is what I have supported, my party has supported. If there hadn't been such a toxic environment, and honestly, my gut feeling is, that the whole issue is meant to be a political wedge issue.
It's all been about politics. It wasn't about actually coming to a deal and that's a shame. If the government hadn't entered into fair negotiations, and had been reasonable, we wouldn't be having to legislate. It would have been more of a respectful environment and it would be better for the province that's the children, that's the teachers.
My party's not going to change course. We supported the appointment of an independent mediator because our government failed to be able to sit down at the table with the teachers.
Mr. Martin has said two things there that are kind of unusual. In one stance, he's completely running down the union, and in the other stance, he's sounding like he would be able to run a government where you can sit down to negotiate.
I don't see how that works. I don't see how you can insult somebody and then expect to sit at the table and negotiate. I don't think you can have it both ways.
It's all about dealing with these issues at the collective bargaining table, fair and reasonably.
On Cultus Lake Parks Board
Throness: I have met with all the mayors of all the six, or so, communities in this riding and I've told them that I want to help them get where they're community wants to go.
It's not for me to impose what I want on their community. I want them to tell me what they want and as their servant I will represent them in Victoria.
So I've met with Don McRae, the head of Cultus Lake Parks Board and also with Gary and I guesss there is consensus in the community, if they want change on the Cultus Lake Parks Board, I would be happy to take that forward for you in Victoria and I assure you of that today here.
Martin: As we discussed the other night, there's a very awkward arrangement and a lot of people wouldn't know that's actually the case, where the members actually come from. So my position that I reiterate to you is, as long as the City of Chilliwack, which has a long involvement and history in the government of Cultus Lake and the Park.
As long as it's a doable, workable arrangement they can live with as well then there's no reason why we should be going forward.
On Getting Kidney Dialysis at CGH - Elaina Wugalter
Martin: This is something that happens in a public health system where the resources and services are not always necessarily in every part of the province.
It becomes an economic factor. Are there enough people that do require this treatment and I've been under the impression the government had actually been providing transportation. I stood corrected on that the other night.
So obviously that's an enormous hardship on people to undertake, so absolutely. We would want to pursue this. From what you've told me, of personal opinion, the numbers are more than the media has basically addressed and it is obviously something that's extremely important.
What I can say as MLA for Chilliwack-Hope, I will do absolutely everything in my power to ensure we get our fair share of resources and healthcare provisions, not a nickel less.
Throness: Just so everyone knows, there is a full dialysis in Abbotsford General Hospital and people used to have to go to Royal Columbian in New West, or Surrey Memorial Hospital for dialysis. But now they come to Abbotsford. So there has been an improvement, but, I recognize that as principal, it's good to bring the treatment as close to the people as you can. So that's why we have a $35 million addition to our hospital here in Chilliwack. That's why we built a regional hospital in Abbotsford, the first in three decades.
And so I would support a re-assessment. I would push as MLA, for re-assessment of the situation and that includes assessing the resources and the costs needed to bring a dialysis unit to Chilliwack. As well as the standards used across the province so that we make sure we get our fair and also an assessment of the need, both present and future because we live in an aging society. More people are going to need dialysis.
Once we've done that assessment, I'd like to make that public and I think the way forward would become apparent after that. So that's what I would pledge to do as am MLA.
O'Mahony: There's two dialysis units in Abbotsford. One attached to the hospital and a free-standing clinic too.
We have none.
There certainly are the hours available, so if we need expansion, people are getting their dialysis done in the middle of the night, I think that certainly there is a need to expand, and rather than expand yet again in Abbotsford, why not Chilliwack?
Number one, I have been very aggressive on this. I saw the page on Facebook right during the time of our winter snowstorm, of which I couldn't make it to work because I travel to Chilliwack, and it really struck me that these people were traveling in this weather to get dialysis?
And I acted on it immediately and had community meetings with Leader Adrian Dix and definitely, we want to fight over this cause and I've already been proactive.
I've received a lot of calls from members of the community and especially from Hope and areas that are even further out yet that have called me.
On Supply Management - Ken Schwaerzle, Chair of the FV Agriculture Committee
O'Mahony: We've always been a supporter of Supply Management and I just want to say right now, it's very interesting because Supply Management of course is a part of control market system and it's not open, so it wouldn't it wouldn't fall under the classifications of people on the right that call it a "Free Market System".
It ensures that we have a stable marketplace, ensures higher standards and I'm all for it. When I ran in 2009, Hans Mulder, the Conservative candidate was very strong standing up and saying 'We like to get rid of both systems all together.'
So I'm not sure if anyone from the Conservative Party is addressing this or changing their positions, but I do remember that very clearly.
My Liberal opponent is very strongly in support of Supply and Management and yet he's from the very same government that took down the report.
So if you want consistency when it comes to Supply Management then I'm your candidate.
Throness: If we were not to have Supply Management, we would be immediately swamped with very cheap American produce and our family farms would go belly up.
So Canada, and this is an area of federal jurisdiction by the way, Canada's historically been unproductive of its family farms so that we have some kind of sustainability in our country and also for traditional reasons and because Canadians value family farms and so do we.
So, the Supply Management has provided for, you know, fifty years, very high quality food at a reasonable price and has also kept farmers well supplied and they don't even have access to a lot of the programs that other farmers do because they have a stable industry.
And so I support Supply Management. it's the pillar of Valley economy and imagine what our economy, would be without it and I'll continue to do that and as chief of staff Strong, when he was agriculture minister, we both went to the wall around the world for Supply Management which is under threat internationally and I think the government will continue to do that and I will be part of that.
Martin: Throughout the by-election and leading up to it, I've been somewhat reluctant to speak on federal matters of federal jurisdiction given that we're competing for a provincial disposition here.
The concept of quotas is somewhat problematic. I would support a program that is the best thing for us, the individual producers, the farmers, the family farms. It should not be something that is dictated by bureaucrats. It should be up to the individual producers, the farms. Its up to them and I would do anything I could to support that.
On the Agricultural Land Reserve
Mahony: Tooth and nail. We have seen an erosion of the ALR. We don't see that on paper. What you see is the ALR has remained the same and it's exactly what my opponents are going to say and that's because there's been a swapping out.
There's been an expansion of land northern British Columbia, and in the best fertile land that is being excluded from the ALR for reasons of such things as gravel extraction in Chilliwack River Valley, I don't know if there's anybody from that community (here), but lets not forget that battle and how easy it is to get farmland excluded and used for other purposes.
Basically, we have to strengthen the ALC (Agriculture Land Commission) role and that role is as a preserver of the intent of the ALR which is what farmland is. There's a number of measures my party has called for, that's the one that really sticks out is the role of the ALC. Right now it seems that its more geared toward development.
Martin: At the end of the day, a lot of the stuff myself Gwen and Laurie will talk about pales in comparison to the big issues; the air we breathe, the water we drink, the food we consume.
Nothing is more important. Not these other programs, start-up projects by the government, none of them really matter if we're compromised in those three areas. The preservation of farmland, particularly in an area such as the Fraser Valley, is absolutely paramount.
This is not just about the production of agriculture. It's a way of life. It's who we are, its how this community, how this part of the province came into being and we have ( to ensure) we're not eroding it, or destroying i because once it's gone it's never coming back.
Throness: Well, I think the proof is in the pudding and we have proof in that during the 90s when the NDP were in power, they added 16,000 hectares to the ALR. In this ten years that the BC Liberals have been in power, we've added 38,00 hectares to the ALR and so the value, our value, is shown by how much we've actually put into the ALR.
The ALC is an independent body and it's mandate, it's legislated mandate is to preserve agricultural land and of course we totally support that and there is no political interference in that by the way because it is an independent (laughter from audience) judicial body.
On UNEEDA Forest Products Mill Union-Busting and the Forestry Industry
Throness: We have experienced some kind of a decline in the forestry industry because of worldwide competition in low wage places like China and competing with them is very difficult.
This is something we are able to do, is to sell unmanufactured logs, or raw logs, at a high price and that has allowed other wood to be gotten from the forests that would otherwise be unaffordable that mills can buy and produce.
Only about 10 per cent of our logs are exported and about 90 per cent are manufactured here in BC. And so certainly, it's a difficult time for mills. We have right now a review ongoing to determine the best way to export logs and the best number or quantity to export that would produce the most jobs here in BC.
So we're waiting for that review. it should be out this month and really it is an economic question and its very difficult to compete with China.
In the long term, wages are going to rise in other countries as they improve their standard of living and then we will become more competitive. But until then its going to be difficult and I can't speak for the dispute that you're in, but I'm sorry to hear that... that you're locked out.
Martin: The legacy of this government is one that selects winners and losers. Certain people, certain groups, insiders, preferred interest groups, have done very, very well under this government. Lots haven't and what you've just told us is an example of a sector that unfortunately this government has left on the outside and your story is not unique. I've heard the same thing happening in Port Alberni and its devastating.
O'Mahony: Well John Martin has said he doesn't want to see us return to the disaster of the 90s, but that wouldn't happen in the 90s. Not under an NDP government.
Since the Liberals took power, they've made some changes to the Forestry Act and one of them was the (unintelligible) clause, and that basically dictated that if you're going to take trees that belong to all of us in British Columbia, we own our forests collectively (applause) and we need to share the maximum benefit of that, and so those trees were used in mills locally in communities. Communities such as Boston Bar.
The moment the liberals came to power, they took that clause out -- that mill in Boston Bar closed up, left Boston Bar utterly devastated and it has not recovered since the closure of that mill.
We knock on doors in Boston Bar, they still talk about it, and the people there did not receives their compensation like they were supposed to, the company left them high and dry and then it opened up in Surrey and Gordon Campbell showed up and 'look it, I'm creating employment'.
How much damage has been done? Well, 80 mill closures, 40,000 lost their jobs. We say to ourselves, we have to move on from here and we need to look at the circumstances.
I applaud your union (questioner), although other people think unions are a pain in the butt, because you are making a big difference for this community because if you don't win this battle, then yeah, there is going to be a sweatshop in Chilliwack and its going to have an impact on other businesses, non-union and union are going to feel the impact of this.
I'm from a forestry-dependent community. I'm from Campbell River BC originally. I was born and raised (there) and my family worked in the forestry sector, my dad was a logger, but this is a very emotional story and I could feel the emotion in your (questioner) voice as you were telling it and I really get that. I understand. And everyone saying we can do, we can't go back to the old industry, we obviously have to move on from here, but while there are mills in our province that are starved of fiber that is something we can do something about, no logs should be shipped to China if there is a mill in this province that can process it and keep our jobs safe.
On the Kinder Morgan Pipeline
Throness: We have environmental assessment processes that is exhaustive in Canada, and this pipeline or any other would have to go through that environmental assessment processes.
Now, most people I think probably in this room didn't know that there was a Kinder Morgan pipeline going through some residential areas of Chilliwack that's been there since 1953. It's changed since then, so it's not impossible that a pipeline could be safe. But it would need to go through an exhaustive environmental review which would have to be done, it would take several years. And I would like to be at the forefront in defending our community and making sure we have everyone who's concerned about safety as I would be. Being able to respond to that environmental assessment and have to have fully looked at.
There might be the possibility through that review of changing the path of a pipeline to a place that might be less risky. And I think I would be asking another question and that is what's in it for our community. I would be saying, the pipeline is going through First Nations, or being advised to go through first nations in northern BC, will bring benefits to those communities.
And I would be asking in a very loud voice, what are the benefits that would accrue to our community from this should we be able to have a safe pipeline? But safety of course is first and that what an environmental assessment is all about.
Martin: The announcement just made several hours about the extent of the expansion caught many of us off guard. I had no idea that it would be that quick, that fast and be that large.
There is the federal assessment review, How much confidence in that? How much confidence do we have that local concerns of this community and elsewhere are going to be taken into account.
We've seen communities mobilize before. You saw that with the Sumas (Power Plant) project several years ago.
When I initially heard about this project, I was thinking that this would be like a big ditch basically. It's literally a canal that's sounds like it's going right through the riding. So this is massive and it's going to be incredibly disruptive.
My understanding is that Kinder Morgan has a legal right-of-way. How was that negotiated, what safeguards are going to be put in place within the community. I think we have a hell of a fight on our hands. Decidedly this is going to be an issue that dominates this riding for years and years to come. This is serious.
O'Mahony: Throughout the campaign trail I've actually had a chance to sit down and talk to some of the local Aboriginal leaders and they are very concerned about the Kinder Morgan twinning and they were waiting to get more information because they're still in Ottawa. Not only that but there hasn't been public information sessions, and we're just learning as Mr. Martin said the full extent of it.
I think we really need to touch on that key element, and that would be environmental assessments and the fact that communities have really lost faith in these processes, and not only that but because there's been so many cuts to them, so many cuts to the policing of the environment and as a person who's worked alongside environmentalists for two years, and I see the whole, and I looking at it with a healthy dose of skepticism is quite a safe way to go, so I would definitely be reading everything and attending the meetings and if does seem dangerous to our community and if the First Nations are in disagreement, then as MLA I have to side with my community.
On TyCrop ALR Rezoning
Throness: First of all the ALC is quasi-judicial body and it's created it's created under the ALC act. It's independent of political influence.
It would be inappropriate for any provincial candidate to express an opinion about this application and it would in fact be unlawful for an MLA to interfere in that process. So I don't have an opinion about Tycrop's expansion plans. We did tour the plant on the 16th of February, the application was dated April 2nd and I did ask Tycrop if we could talk about the conversation that we had there, because I want to suppress any conspiracy theories and said "sure." Because they said they were planning to expand our plant and we're planning to make an application to the ALC and we said "oh, that's interesting. They never asked for any assistance. We never offered any assistance. There have been no conversations before, or since, and this is a process that the ALC will oversee and walk through.
We have nothing to do with it and I as an MLA would not interfere one bit with it and nor would the other candidates I'm sure.
Martin: We spoke yesterday, just shared the details of the situation with me, so I don't know an awful lot more than what you brought me up to speed on 24 hours ago and what you've reiterated today.
I think what it does speak to though is the sham, the un-open government. There is so much dissatisfaction with this lack of transparency, the secrecy, the stuff going on behind closed doors. We're not allowed to know. We can't find out. Especially with the new premier when she took over recently, this was an open government. The most open, accessible, accountable government and I've basically seen something about 180 degrees away from that.
O'Mahony: I think a case in point is very simple. We know that Christy Clark visited Tycrop and we know that Tycrop is putting out a fairly hefty application to take land out of the ALR, the same ALR that the Liberals are saying they are trying to protect. So, as an advocate of the ALR, I would expect the Liberals raise a stink if this application should go through.
On the GDP and Unemployment in the 90s
Throness: After the magnificent decade of the NDP, they lost all but two of their seats. So I think the people of BC pronounced their verdict on the NDP government and if I were to say one thing that I hear on the doorsteps, is concern in the riding that the NDP will win again and I think that people are really concerned about this and I think for good reason.
Mr. Dix has not put forward any kind of budget. We run a budget, it's a three year budget. It's going to be a balanced budget next year. There's no idea what the NDP are going to do and I know that they said last October that they had it in their back pocket and will not review it. And I would challenge the NDP to review their budget and to tell us what their plans for the province are -- all for taxation, not for spending.
Martin: Obviously I'm not a huge fan of saying the last ten years have been a remarkable improvement. I understand, I've seen those numbers. Just to mention a couple of things Laurie is talking about a balanced budget that's coming next year. That's interesting because this balanced budget is going to add 5 billion dollars to the debt.
On my planet, that's not a balanced budget. I just don't know how you can make that claim. If you did that in the real world and you have and you have some explaining to do to your shareholders at the ATM.
When the premier announced her job plan, unemployment was 6.7 per cent, last week it's now to 7 per cent. So I am going to call ion the premier to scrap that jobs plan before we go double-digits.
O'Mahony: So it is here that my good two criminologists beside me haven't read the data and indeed I have read that data and what can I say. I think we need to return to an NDP government by the sounds of it.
On Fish Farms and the Aquaculture Industry - Eddie Gardiner
Throness: When it comes to aquaculture, if we were going to go hunt all of our meat in the forest the forest would be devoid of any game, therefore we farm. If we go out and hunt all of our fish in the high seas, there's going to be big shortages of fish as we've experienced it, especially on the east coast.
So aquaculture is a concept I think is a necessary concept and just how we operate is a matter for careful planning and adjustment as time goes on.
I think you're right. There are concerns about disease. There are concerns about how to feed them... all kinds of those concerns and those need to be addressed but I think they are a necessity.
As to the juncture between fish farms and aboriginal fisheries, that is an issue of federal jurisdiction and I would leave that jurisdiction in place. I think they're quite protective of Aboriginal rights in the fishery and I've experience that working for Chuck Strahl on the federal side.
Martin: I can say with a considerable degree of confidence that I'll go to my grave never having eaten farmed fish in my life. It's just not going to happen.
Our leader particularly gained some notoriety on this particular file. he defied the wishes of his party. He defied what his party told him, which is going to be the party line, and he basically stood up for his constituents and stood up for the preservation of fish stock. And he got arrested for that, he was thrown off of the fisheries committee, being the most knowledgeable parliamentarian on that particular file, paid a deep, deep personal price personally and to his political career for standing up on behalf of the preservation of fish stock and the commercial fishermen. His party would follow on that particular trajectory first and fore mostly for the protection of fish.
The resources belong to everybody in this province. Once again, I will never, ever, be a mouthpiece for the party. I don't want this position that bad, I promise you. I will speak up for the constituents for the matters, the issues that are important to people in Chilliwack-Hope.
O'Mahony: This issue is important not only to the people of Chilliwack but to the entire population of our province.
I'm a wild salmon activist and I have been standing up for our wild salmon and so much so I've taken part in the salmon paddle with Alexandra Morton, which was a 5-day paddle down the Fraser River. We did so with a group of activists so that the salmon farmers release the disease records. And I really thought that's such a shame that we have to go through all that just to get some transparency.
If you've got nothing to hide hold back such documents that are essential?
I also attended the Cohen Commission and testified and my position has been very strong. I mentioned I'm from the Island and we do have very strong policies in place in regards to the farmed salmon.
We've been pushing for closed containment now for a number of years and the NDP were on the committee recently that looked into farming of salmon and whether or not it is really sustainable and what needs to happen, what needs to change.
There were 55 recommendations made to the federal government and they didn't take any of them. Not one. And I think that's sad.
There's more that must happen, that simply must happen and we can't wait. We're not against aquaculture. So lets make a definitive difference here.
It's not what the ministry says is good for aquaculture -- it's what we choose grow. Now farmed salmon you may not know, it requires more to grow than it actually produces... I think its five pounds for every one pound (of fish), so its not really sustainable.
Whereas examining something like shellfish could be a great benefit to everyone. So, there are options as I mentioned, and common sense approaches such as more transparency, such as closed containment, such as examining aquaculture in other sectors so that people don't lose their jobs because that's often an issue that we have to weigh now is that it provides employment.
On the Level of Funding to Independent Schools
Martin: I think first and foremost the education system both public and private, has to be totally directed toward parents and students. I'm all for parents having more choice and that includes in the public school, I'd like parents to have more input, more influence in the public school system.
The property tax that people do pay, if they wish to enroll their children in a private school or a faith-based school, I think that they should be able to see that their money is going to be able to support that. Parents and students deserve choice.
O'Mahony: We're not proposing any changes to the funding system at the centre now.
Throness: Right now independent schools are funded in BC to the tune of 50 per cent. That represents a real saving. I think independent schools are a great boon to our province. The government estimates that last year we saved about $308 Million through independent schools to the taxpayer. So they provide excellent value for money as well as excellent education and I would be in full support of independent schools.
There are some ways I think that we can help independent schools more than we do now. For instance, capital is paid for building schools, public schools and so on, but there is no capital for independent schools. Independent schools have to raise their own capital. So perhaps we could help them somehow with "carrying charges".
Different administrative ways like that we can help , but having met with independent schools, independent schools are wary of getting more than 50 per cent funding because they don't want to be tied too much to what the government tells them what to teach. They want to be able to pass their own values onto their own kids and I think that's what I would really support. I support the rights of parents to teach their kids what they want to teach them.
On the Value of Public Sector Workers and Public Services
Throness: I have a master’s degree in college administration. I’ve worked in the federal government, in the bureaucracy, not only on the political side and also for the provincial government. I spent a year listening to the complaints of landlord and tenants in the Residential Tenancy Branch and giving them advice. I've been a public servant and I'm in full support of public service. It's a proud and noble occupation, something that we should support 100 per cent. So I have no problem with that.
Martin: I am a public sector employee for twenty-five years, so I've got a little bit of a bias here. I also like to think I make a contribution. Throughout this riding you can go to any of the prisons and you'll find dozens and dozens of my former students (laughter).
I think I have been blessed the last twenty-five years working for one of the best institutions in Canada. There's no better employer at the University of the Fraser Valley and I'm proud to have been a part of that, the growth of that back in the days of Fraser Valley College and the little portals that were here. I can hold my head high and say in a small way, I've made a bit of a difference and I did that through the public service at the university and I'm so proud of that.
O'Mahony: I too am a public employee. I work for a non-profit organization but we are funded by the government and we do a fantastic job. And I believe because we are non-profit we're public servants and I just want to give an example though, some kind of analogy and I think about hospital employees union for example who clean our hospitals and that ended up going out to a private company and we see right there a clear difference in services. Our hospitals now are filled with infection. I think that's a really clear, clear example that we should really heed, to attest to the job that public servants do in this province and that private model gone wrong, that is profit-driven.
On A Balanced Budget
Martin: We don't have the moral authority to spend money that has yet to be earned by a generation that is yet to be born (applause).
We don't even talk about paying down the debt. When was the last time anyone had a serious conversation about paying down the debt. Laurie's telling us we're going to have a balanced budget next year just by adding $5 billion to the debt. There's no talk whatsoever about even attempting to pay that debt.
Someone's going to have to pay it sooner or later. It can't go on forever and I don't see the Liberals or the NDP ever, ever getting serious about paying down that debt. It's going to be left for someone else
O'Mahony: Exactly how do you suppose to pay down that debt as drastically as you're suggesting? What services are you going to cut and how deep are you going to cut it?
What I fear too are strange views and what we need really is moderation. We got one party that wants to balance the budget, but they're going to sell off everything in order to do it. This is the ideology when you say you're going to balance the budget.
Well, if you sell off property in Surrey-- the fastest growing city in this province. That is a bad mistake. One day we're going to need that property for schools or hospitals. It's just bad policy.
And I have another candidate beside me who doesn't really have clear policy or a clear platform yet and he speaks as though he's going to restore court services, although he's going to negotiate with unions and then get some raises and yet he wants to take down that debt really quickly.
We can't have radical movement here. We need to be reasonable and believe it or not, it seems like the only conservative in the room seems to be the NDP.
It's A Wrap
O'Mahony: I just want to say that it's been quite a pleasure to run again as an NDP candidate and to square off with my two opponents, it's been rather enjoyable.
It's been fun seeing our different platforms coming out. Our small "c" conservative make drug addiction a priority and thought 'wow, this is good -- you turn into a socialist-activist.’ (laughter).
And on the reverse side, John Martin, another fiscal conservative and I think Waste-to-Energy was one of his platform issues and becoming an outspoken activist for the environment.
Have I had an effect on you two guys? (Laughter) I have to say Bravo, bravo.
I guess that leaves me to talk about the economy.
So the elephant in the room that no one wants to talk about is that we have a growing disparity in equality and it's really affecting our society. True we have faced one of the worst economic meltdowns ever, and it was global. You're very correct Laurie, and that devastated many people. But here's the thing that really gets me; at the same time that people were losing their homes and losing their jobs we also saw an accumulation of wealth in the 1 per cent like never before.
What is going on? Could it be a free market system out of control that really isn't all that free? And you can't ignore it. We've had Occupy movements all around the world. Yeah, I think it is time for change and if you want real change, you're going to be voting for this woman, O'Mahony and you're going to be voting for NDP.
Martin: Thanks everyone for coming out on such a wet and miserable night out there.
So this is the last hurrah. Advance polls are open and there's some serious choices to be made. We can stick with the status quo. We've seen where that's gotten us. We can take a big big risk on the NDP and go down a road that people have been down before. And a lot of people don't want to do that. They don't want to go there. So, we're offering a choice. A small "c" Conservative government. Smaller government, leaner government, more responsible.
When the Liberals came to power in 2001, we gave them 77 to 79 seats, an overwhelming show of trust and confidence.
What happened to it? How did we squander that away? How did it turn from 77 to 79 seats when they don't have a safe seat in the province -- Absolutely unthinkable (applause). There's no excuse.
Nothing is more important in a social contract than trust between the people and this government and the government says if we promise not to sell BC Rail than to get elected and sell it. Then they say 'elect us, we're not bringing in the HST' and they are reelected.
A government that says no, we're not interested in a carbon tax, we're not going down that road. This government cannot be trusted. That is absolutely tragic that it's gotten to that point.
Governments come and go. People get hired. They vote one out, they vote another one in but at the end of the day, there has to be some semblance of trust, there has to be at a very basic rudimentary level.
The government is being relatively straight forward with you most of the time. The Liberals aren't doing that. That's why I encourage you to show them where the gate's at. They've worn out their welcome. They're desperate. They exist right now from one thing and one thing only -- that is to cling to power and you have to offer something an awful lot better than that.
Throness: I'm offering myself to be your servant here as well the rest of you. I think I have some qualifications that are valuable. I've some degrees, I've been Chief of Staff to staff to Chuck Strahl for four years in four departments that are relative to the Valley and I've been in agriculture and transportation and even an accountant. So I think that I have something personal that I can offer. My personal passion would be our MLA to get more long-term treatment for those who are addicted to drugs. I think that would reduce crime. It would reduce poverty and homelessness. It would humans from misery and it would reduce criminal networks and it would save money for the government. So now we attack the supply of drugs, but I think we need to do more to attack the demand side so that people get off drugs and we help them to be free of addiction in their lives. So that's a sort of personal thing that I would like to take to Victoria.
You know we have a government that is balancing its budget. We have the lowest personal income tax rates in Canada. We have the lowest corporate taxes among the G7. We have a triple A credit rating. It’s reaffirmed today we have a very low debt burden, a debt burden at half the federal Conservative debt burden and a quarter proportionately of the American debt burden.
They're struggling with a $15 trillion deposit. We have a debt burden that is very, very low. I think we've made mistakes, yes. Governments make mistakes. But I think on the things that are really important to British Columbians, the most important things we've done excellently and I think we have a very well managed government.
In closing, I just want to thank my colleagues in democracy here. It's a difficult thing to run. You aren't being paid. You take a lot of abuse and go through a lot of work and door-knocking in the rain and so on, and I really admire anyone who wants to stand for public office. So I'd like to thank you folks for standing in.
See more photos below.
© Copyright (c) 2012 The Valley Voice
Katharin Midzain, President Chilliwack Teachers Association (above).
John Janzen, CEO CEPCO and Laurie Throness
Glen Thompson (L) and Eddie Gardiner, Stó:lō Elder and Shaman (yellow).
Wes Pidgeon, Youth Worker
Elaina Wugalter, dialysis unit activist.
The end of the gallery. Thanks for looking. return to the main page here.