(from left) Fraser-Nicola candidates Michael Henshall (Social Credit)

(from left) Fraser-Nicola candidates Michael Henshall (Social Credit)

Fraser-Nicola Candidates discuss health care and more in Clinton

Plus an exit poll of the audience asked everyone how well the candidates had answered the questions asked.

More than four dozen Clinton and area residents turned out for the provincial all-candidates forum in Clinton on April 25. Organized by the Spirit of Clinton committee and moderated by Andy May, with Nancy Rempel as official timer, the forum was well-organized and gave audience members a chance to ask several questions.

All four candidates running in the Fraser-Nicola riding were in attendance. Arthur Green (Green Party), Michael Henshall (Social Credit), Harry Lali (NDP), and Jackie Tegart (Liberal) were each given two minutes to introduce themselves to the audience. Names were drawn to establish the order in which they would speak.

Henshall started off by stating that there are problems that need to be corrected. Government needs to put B.C. people first and bring integrity back, and that is what the Social Credit Party plans to do. He said there should be no corporate donations.

Lali said this election is about choices. Is the government for the people or for corporations? The NDP, he stated, will restore public services.

Tegart stressed the creations of jobs, growing the economy with fiscal responsibility, and supporting rural B.C.

Green condemned what he sees as corruption in the government. The Green Party will accept no corporate donations. There is a need to address structural deficits and BC Hydro deficits. This election is for our grandkids.

The first question was “What are you going to do about the doctor shortage and other health care practitioner shortages?” Henshall said that in Interior Health there are administrators administering administrators. The money needs to be allocated where it should be.

Lali said the NDP recognizes that there is a doctor shortage. He said there has been little effort by the Liberals to improve health care. There needs to be a change in philosophy, a need to get rid of red tape so foreign doctors can come here.

Tegart stated that health care is the number one issue. The Liberals have increased the number of doctor seats in training, and doubled the nursing training. Doctors tend to practice where they train. The Liberals want to expand the Practice Readiness Program that saw two doctors come to Ashcroft and two to Logan Lake. “We need rural health care for rural communities.”

Green suggested free education for doctors with a commitment to work in the province for a specified period of time. He said we need to train more nurses, and that there is currently no budget for hiring more nurses. He stated that the problem could be solved quite easily.

The second question was about the softwood lumber tariff. “Fifty-eight per cent of West Fraser lumber is sold to the U.S. What are you going to do about tariffs?”

Henshall said we need to shift the way we do business to a royalty structure: keep corporate taxes down, process logs and other natural resource goods here, and ship the finished product.

Lali said “Bring on the NAFTA agreement. The NDP will include softwood lumber in NAFTA.” He stated that the Liberals took donations from Weyerhaeuser, the company leading the charge [against softwood lumber] with President Donald Trump.

Tegart said that the Liberals have been working on this, preparing for this, and that they will work with the U.S. home builders and lumber sellers, and work with the federal government to diversify the market.

Green said we need to charge corporations more, bring the stumpage fees up to the level of the cost of logging in the U.S. to level the playing field, and create more value-added [industries].

In response to questions from the floor (that they had one minute to answer), all candidates stated that more needs to be done to improve health care and education. Green said to fund health care with new streams of income and raise corporate taxes. On education, he said the Green Party would increase the education budget, especially for trade skills.

Tegart said the Liberals have a fully-funded budget to hire 100 nurse practitioners, and expand the Merritt hospital. She stated that she is passionate about education, and that B.C. has ranked number one for education. $1.4 billion has been earmarked for new and improved schools.

Henshall said we need to do business differently. Get rid of corporate welfare, build refineries (not pipelines), and keep the jobs here. The resources of the province belong to the people of the province.

Lali said that the money is there, and to stop the boondoggles and overspending of the Liberals, with the savings going to health care. The government needs to respect teachers, students, and parents and respect contracts.

Questions on LNG support, the Kinder Morgan pipeline, and climate change were asked and answered. When asked how many candidates are running in this election for each party, all but Henshall said they are running a full slate of candidates. The Social Credit Party has candidates running in two ridings.

The candidates were asked “What do you define as trophy hunting?” Although all candidates stated that they are not opposed to hunting for sustenance, none could really define “trophy” hunting.

A question was directed to Tegart regarding the proposed water bottling plant in Clinton. “How far has the process gone in the provincial government?” She responded that there are stringent rules and regulations in place. She will support the local government in the creation of jobs in the community.

Each candidate was given a chance to wrap up. Green shared the Green Party’s six principles: participatory democracy, sustainability, social justice, respect for diversity, ecological wisdom, and non-violence.

Henshall said that he is running as he is concerned for our children, our fixed-income seniors, and the residents of this province.

Tegart stated that she has been an active, engaged MLA, and said that she enjoys working with the Village of Clinton council as they are so focused. She pointed out the work the Liberals have done in this riding with regards to the Lillooet Slide, McAbee Fossil Beds site, Ashcroft Terminal, the Merritt Hospital expansion, and seniors’ housing in Clinton.

Lali stressed the need to restore public services, 24/7 emergency rooms, improved health care, and a freeze on Hydro rates. He said this riding needs an MLA who is outspoken.

The Spirit of Clinton had prepared an exit poll question that those attending could answer. The question was “Who do you think did the best job of answering questions tonight?”

The results were Tegart with 44 per cent, Green at 19 per cent, Lali at 14 per cent, Henshall at 14 per cent, and “all of them” at nine per cent.