2019 ELECTION: Courtenay-Alberni candidates face tough questions from ADSS students

Courtenay-Alberni candidates seated in the Alberni District Secondary School Theatre before the start of the All Candidates Meeting on Oct. 9. ELENA RARDON PHOTO
Conservative candidate Byron Horner makes his introductory statement during the all candidates meeting at ADSS on Wednesday, Oct. 9. ELENA RARDON PHOTO
Marxist-Leninist candidate Barb Biley gives her introductory statement during the all candidates meeting at ADSS on Wednesday, Oct. 9. ELENA RARDON PHOTO
NDP candidate Gord Johns answers a question during the all candidates meeting at ADSS on Wednesday, Oct. 9. ELENA RARDON PHOTO
Green party candidate Sean Woods answers a question during the all candidates meeting at ADSS on Wednesday, Oct. 9. ELENA RARDON PHOTO
Liberal candidate Jonah Gowans answers a question during the all candidates meeting at ADSS on Wednesday, Oct. 9. ELENA RARDON PHOTO
The moderators of the all candidates meeting at ADSS on Wednesday, Oct. 9. From left to right: Brianna Jacobsen, Jamie Fraser, Elise Eikaas Orbeck and Zachary Hamelin. ELENA RARDON PHOTO

Alberni District Secondary School students hosted an all candidates meeting for the upcoming federal election, asking the tough questions of five Courtenay-Alberni candidates on Wednesday, Oct. 9.

READ MORE: Meet the candidates for the Courtenay-Alberni riding

The meeting, which lasted a little more than an hour, started out with each candidate giving a short introduction. This was followed by a number of rapid-fire questions. A few members of the ADSS band were on hand to play music if any candidates started to veer off track or attack other candidates.

Moderators were Jamie Fraser, Elise Eikaas Orbeck, Brianna Jacobsen and Zachary Hamelin from Anne Ostwald’s Social Justice 12 class. They explained after the meeting that the topics chosen for discussion—which ranged from the environment to LGBTQ+ issues to the national debt—were a school-wide effort. Social Justice students sent out emails and visited different classrooms to come up with questions.

In addition to the meeting, high schoolers will also be holding a “Student Vote” this week. Moderators admitted that the all candidates meeting had changed their minds about some of the candidates.

“I know sometimes it says online that someone is in favour of something, but then they say the exact opposite up on stage,” said Jacobsen.

“What I’ve read online is different than what I’ve heard today,” agreed Hamelin.

“From each party there are parts that you like or don’t like,” added Fraser, noting that it was easier this way to separate the candidates from their parties.

They agreed that moderating the event was “stressful.” The students had provided their teachers with their prepared script to look over and make changes, which meant there was some improvisation on stage

‘The [script] we rehearsed had changed by this morning,” said Hamelin.

If you missed this event, there will be an evening all candidates meeting at the Italian Hall Events Centre (4065 Sixth Ave) on Thursday, Oct. 10 hosted by the Alberni Valley Chamber of Commerce. The meeting starts at 7 p.m.

Here are a few of the issues that were discussed during Wednesday’s all candidates meeting:

How will the Trans Mountain Pipeline expansion affect Courtenay-Alberni?

Conservative candidate Byron Horner expressed support for the Trans Mountain pipeline expansion because it will directly lead to jobs in spill reponse in Port Alberni.

“We don’t have spill response right now,” he said. “Building Trans [Mountain] will give us a billion dollars and 20 full- or part-time jobs here in Port Alberni.”

READ MORE: Spill response vessels unloaded in Nanaimo

Liberal candidate Jonah Gowans also expressed support for the Trans Mountain expansion, noting that the Liberals have factored it into their climate plans.

Both Marxist-Leninist candidate Barb Biley and NDP candidate Gord Johns believe that the pipeline won’t be built at all, because there has not been consent from the affected First Nations or British Columbia as a whole. Johns added that he doesn’t support “trading 20 jobs” for the thousands of coastal workers who will be out of a job if there is a spill.

Green Party candidate Sean Wood said that the funding would be better diverted to green and sustainable technology, rather than the “sunset industry” of fossil fuels.

“We couldn’t clean up the diluted bitumen even if we wanted to if there was a spill,” he added.

How will you address reconciliation with the Nuu-chah-nulth Nations?

All five candidates agreed that sitting down and listening to Indigenous people is the only way to start the process of reconciliation.

Johns said that the federal government has to fully implement the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples.

Gowans agreed, and added that a recent report on Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women has more than 190 pages of recommendations. “I believe that all of them should be acted on,” he said.

Horner said that he wants reconciliation to be “measurable,” with things like housing, health services and good drinking water for Indigenous communities.

How can the federal government support the forest industry?

Although forestry is largely a provincial issue, Johns suggested that the federal government could provide support by investing “a lot more money” in technology and research to help support the forest sector. He and Wood both agreed that adding value to logs, instead of shipping out raw logs, could add more jobs.

Gowans made note of the Liberals’ plan to plant two billion trees over the next ten years, and also suggested that the federal government provide funds for training so that forestry workers are not left behind as the industry changes.

Horner added that the federal government can help when it comes to adopting sustainable forest practices and can also help find markets for Canadian wood.

Biley pointed out that logs are a renewable resource, but the decisions about how to develop and market that resource haven’t been made with the industry’s best interests in mind. “If we can turn that around, we can turn forestry around,” she said.

Do we need to cut services to balance the country’s budget?

Horner said that the Conservatives have committed to balancing the annual operating budget in five years, with no “drastic” cuts and increased spending in some areas.

Johns, Biley and Woods were adamant that services do not need to be cut in order to tackle the federal deficit. “The super wealthy get a tax break that most people don’t get,” Johns said. “They can help balance the budget.”

Biley added that the aim of an economy has to be to meet the needs of the people who are served by that economy. Instead of cutting services, the government needs to focus on developing the economy so it does meet those needs.


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