Participants at the all-candidates’ debate Thursday at the Beban Park social centre included Bob Chamberlin, NDP, left; Jennifer Clarke, People’s Party of Canada; Michelle Corfield, Liberals; John Hirst, Conservatives; Paul Manly, Green Party; and Brian Marlatt, Progressive Canadian Party. (GREG SAKAKI/The News Bulletin)

Nanaimo-Ladysmith candidates talk environment, economy and governance

First all-candidates’ meeting was held Thursday at the Beban Park social centre

Voters in Nanaimo-Ladysmith heard how candidates would approach local, national and global issues. The economy, the environment and governance were three of the topics debated Thursday at an all-candidates’ meeting at Beban Park, hosted by the Greater Nanaimo Chamber of Commerce.

Candidates were allowed several rebuttals each which led to a few lively moments, including during discussion of the environment and climate change.

Paul Manly, Green Party candidate, repeated his opposition to fracking for liquefied natural gas, saying it releases methane into the atmosphere that is “far more dangerous” than CO2.

“We have all the technology we need to change our economy…” Manly said. “We need to stop subsidizing fossil fuels and get into clean energy.”

He criticized NDP leader Jagmeet Singh’s support of the B.C. NDP on the LNG Canada fiscal framework.

Bob Chamberlin, NDP candidate, said his position on fossil fuel expansion is clear, and said he’s stood up against pipelines and the Site C dam.

“My integrity and my honesty on this topic does not waver because I’ve walked into a room that’s different than the one I walked out of,” Chamberlin said. “It remains the same – committed to the environment.”

John Hirst, Conservative candidate, said meeting Paris agreement targets would reduce CO2 output by “half a per cent; it’s nothing,” and said Canadian businesses operate efficiently and if other countries approach Canada’s standards, “that’s meaningful change.”

Hirst also addressed Manly’s opposition to LNG development, saying he’s worked in the oil fields and been involved with fracking.

“I can tell you that the concerns are completely baseless as the science shows,” Hirst said.

Corfield talked about the Liberal government’s oceans protection plan and she noted that homes, transportation, industry, agriculture and electricity use all contribute to climate change.

“We need to reduce all of those and they are all being addressed in the climate action plan,” Corfield said.

Brian Marlatt, Progressive Canadian Party candidate, said climate action can’t be just about protests, politics and denial.

“What we need to do in approaching climate change issues is to mitigate risk, not to talk about what we’re going to stop, but rather how we move forward in building a stronger environmental base, a stronger approach to reduction of greenhouse gases without simply saying, we want to stop this, that and the other thing,” Marlatt said.

Jennifer Clarke of the People’s Party of Canada said she wants clean air and water, but said the PPC would get rid of the federal carbon tax and allow provinces to make decisions on environmental action.

Candidate promises ‘best economy’

On jobs and the economy, Clarke made the boldest statement.

“When you vote for [PPC leader] Maxime Bernier and Jennifer Clarke, you’re going to have the best economy ever in Canada,” she said, suggesting that her party would stop corporate welfare but put businesses in position to succeed in other ways.

“We’re going to be lowering corporate taxes, business taxes down to a flat 10 per cent tax, so then that way we have revenue on volume,” Clarke said.

On job creation, Hirst said small business is the driver for the economy on the mid Island.

“The Green Party and the NDP have both come out strongly against business … The Liberal tax changes have been a direct attack against small business owners,” Hirst said. “What we need to do is we need to foster and encourage local businesses and innovation. That’s what’ll drive the economy, that’s what’ll drive good-paying jobs and that’s what will be the economy of the future.”

Manly said Nanaimo has a lot of innovative companies, including ones working in clean tech, and said it’s time to take advantage of that knowledge, technology and innovation.

“It could be a very exciting time if we just diverted our funds from fracking operations and fossil fuel infrastructure and put it into something green,” he said.

Corfield said the new Vancouver Island free trade zone will open up access to new economies and manufacturing opportunities and said continued investments in infrastructure like ports and airports is needed.

“We live on an Island. We have to have good infrastructure so we can attract good companies and good businesses. When we attract good companies and good businesses, that equals good-paying jobs,” she said.

Marlatt also mentioned encouraging innovation and high-tech opportunities and said Canada needs to diversify trade to other Commonwealth countries and not rely so heavily on trade with the U.S. and China.

Chamberlin said Canada needs to address affordability concerns to make life sustainable enough to be in a position to transition to a new economy.

Candidates would make most of five-month term

Governance was touched on throughout the debate, with parties having different views about the role of a member of Parliament.

Manly alluded to the Green MPs not having any requirement to vote along party lines.

“You may not understand how the system works, but the NDP whips votes and you are going to be told how to vote and you are going to be given your speaking points,” Manly told Chamberlin.

Clarke, too, pointed out that PPC members of Parliament would have freedom to vote, put forward initiatives, and be a voice for constituents.

“One thing that people don’t realize is all of these other candidates are working for their party, they’re working for their leader and their policies and their platforms,” Clarke said. “They have something that’s called a whip that tells them how to vote and how to bring forward bills and they’re bought and they’re corrupt. You know that, right?”

Marlatt suggested that the NDP and Green candidates “are acting as voices for movements” rather than representatives for constituents.

Hirst said he will work for Nanaimo-Ladysmith, not a party or a leader, but took exception to other candidates’ criticism of whipped votes.

“I think it’s a safe bet to say they’ve never been part of a team sport,” Hirst said. “There’s a saying that says, ‘if you want to go far, you go with others.’ And I was given direct assurances by [Conservative leader] Andrew Scheer, we need a West Coast voice with our values, our beliefs.”

Corfield also sees opportunity to use a short term in office to bring attention to the riding and said she would work in partnership to formulate a regional strategy.

“Nanaimo needs a collaborative plan that’s including all of the concerns that we develop together, because that plan can inform and change how Ottawa sees us,” she said.

Chamberlin suggested, as well, that he would make the most of a few months as MP including just a few weeks sitting in the House of Commons.

“Every day of that Liberal government sitting, I’ve been focused on their actions, I’ve been focused on their failures, I’ve been focused on the hollow words that they’ve committed to, to every Canadian, and to First Nations across this country,” Chamberlin said. “I’m ready. I want five and a half weeks of pointing out the failures so we can go into the fall election and make sure that we see the change that’s necessary.”

Another debate coming up

Nanaimo’s South End Community Association will host an all-candidates’ meeting on Monday, April 29, at 6:30 p.m. at the Harbour City Theatre, 25 Victoria Rd.

RELATED: Candidates face questions on Nanaimo doorsteps about supportive housing and crime



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