Candidates economic outlook and solutions

NANAIMO – Nanaimo-North Cowichan candidates share varying viewpoints on economic status and solutions for ridings.

Each political party is touting its agenda for economic recovery and while party leaders paint the broad strokes for economic recovery, local candidates voice priorities closer to home.

The New Democratic Party is touting a six-point list of items it says it would implement, if elected, to improve B.C.’s economic outlook, which includes investing in the forest industry, increasing support for agriculture and food industry, promoting and supporting sustainable mining and exploration and liquid natural gas development, supporting sustainable fisheries and aquaculture and supporting rural economic development.

Doug Routley, NDP candidate for Nanaimo-North Cowichan, said key issues affecting the economy in his riding centre on ferry fares and the forest industry.

“The challenges of rising fares really implicate the sustainability of local economies particularly in the small communities,” Routley said. “Forestry is a very big issue on Vancouver Island where it’s private land-based or where a very high percentage of logging goes toward exports.”

Routley said he wants to see more jobs provided by the resources that are being taken. He said he sees a lot of potential through improving markets in the U.S. and through B.C. adding value to the resource.

He also said the foundations of a thriving economy are laid in supporting post secondary education and skills training.

“I have worked in the forest industry and I think healthy forests are the lungs of the planet and a healthy forest industry is the heart of a thriving economy – and it’s renewable and it kind of answers everything if we manage it properly,” Routley said.

The B.C. Green Party believes a transition to a low-carbon economy is the province’s key to a long-term sustainable wealth and employment and that every dollar invested in clean energy generates three times the number of jobs created in the oil and gas sector for the same amount of investment.

B.C. Greens support sustainable agriculture, renewable energy projects and value-added manufacturing.

Nanaimo-North Cowichan Green candidate Mayo McDonough said because most jobs in the future will be provided by small businesses, improved public transportation between centres such as Ladysmith and Nanaimo will play a key role in supporting the economy, simply by making it easier for workers to commute to and from work.

One big concern, McDonough said, is maintaining a good standard of living while shifting to a low carbon economy.

She suggests helping people make the transition to solar or wind power through subsidies.

“If we had incentives for every business or every person that wanted to get off the grid a bit more and then have the ability to sell (electricity) back like you see them doing in Germany,” McDonough said. “It took them only seven years to go from zero to getting money back to the households.”

McDonough said there would be more economic benefits and jobs from energy-conserving building retrofits.

Local food production and processing would also produce jobs and new or renewed industries, but economic benefits could only be realized in the short term with help from immediate government subsidies and investment to kick start those industries.

The B.C. Liberals’ platform promotes building the economy through supporting and developing resource-based industries, such as liquid natural gas, forestry and mining, eliminating government debt and investing in post-secondary education and skills training aimed at industries already under or proposed for development. The party also proposes tax cuts for small business and development of a B.C. Prosperity fund financed through revenues from natural gas exports.

Liberal candidate Amanda Jacobson said she believes in a free enterprise market, and a government supporting that is the best way for B.C. to ensure future financial and economic security.

“If the government can provide stability and security to its citizens, I think it frees (people) up to live their lives as they want to live them without worrying about what’s going on in the background,” Jacobson said.

Jacobson said government’s role is to provide health care and other basic social infrastructure.

Jacobson said a big issue she has heard people commenting on in Nanaimo-North Cowichan is the economy and people’s fear of taking on more personal and provincial debt.

“They’re really concerned about taking on more debt, especially when we’re just coming out of this recession and things are just starting to turn around,” Jacobson said. “People are really concerned.”

The B.C. Conservatives election platform calls for a five-year projection of revenues and expenditures for the period between May 14 and fall 2017, balanced or surplus budgets in each of the five years with a cumulative surplus of $3.1 billion, repeal of the carbon tax, implementation of the B.C. Conservatives Spending Smarter initiative and strengthened legislative oversight of government expenditures.

Candidate John Sherry said Nanaimo-North Cowichan has some of the highest unemployment in B.C., so attracting high-paying jobs into the riding to help young families stay and establish themselves rather than leave for jobs in Alberta and elsewhere. Sherry said he is against raising corporate taxes that kill jobs and wants B.C. Hydro rate increases to local pulp mills, which are major employers in the riding, rolled back to keep a lid on operating costs and protect employment for local workers.

“I would try to hold the line on taxes for job creators. That would be number one,” Sherry said. “Number two would be to ensure would that our added-value, industrial, job creators are face with unfair hydro rates that help lose their competitive advantage globally. The third would be to work between government and educational institutions, such as Vancouver Island University to ensure that we are training people to fill these much needed jobs for upcoming resource development. The Crofton mill, for instance, is looking for instrumentation mechanics, engineers and millwrights. These are high-paying, skilled labour jobs right in our communities and we need to ensure that we’ve got an adequately trained workforce to fill those positions.”