Candidates respond to key local issues at Alberni forum

Six candidates from other parties joined incumbent Conservative MP James Lunney for a federal all-candidates forum at the Capitol Theatre in Port Alberni.

Incumbent MP James Lunney answers a question during the Nanaimo-Alberni all-candidates forum at the Capitol Theatre.

Nanaimo-Alberni Conservative MP James Lunney has been through five elections and they don’t seem to be getting any easier for the incumbent.

Six candidates from other parties joined Lunney for a federal all-candidates forum at the Capitol Theatre on Monday night.

The candidates made their pitch for the MP’s seat to a crowd of more than 260 people, most of whom looked more than 50 years of age, several of whom were from Parksville/Qualicum.

Lunney received little applause when he made his opening statement, which included saying that Conservative policy stabilized the country’s economy during a chaotic two years.

In contrast, the crowd applauded the NDP’s Zeni Maartman, and the applause eclipsed even hometown Green candidate Myron Jespersen’s.

The NDP will advocate for parental care leave, bolster universal pension, and stand with ordinary citizens and not banks and corporations, Maartman said.

The Greens envision an economy stoked with green technology and jobs, and an improved environment through walking, biking and rail travel.

The Green vision is for “…an economy that is a friend of the environment not an enemy,” a reflective and articulate Jespersen said.

Liberal candidate Renee Miller jabbed at the Conservative’s erosion of universal healthcare, proroguing parliament, and being found in contempt of parliament.

Questions on national and international matters dominated the audience question and answer period.

But questions on a few key local issues were also asked.

Audience member Dean Lamont asked candidates about where they stood with the Raven Coal Project.

The project is before an environmental review process, which is “one of the most solid in the world,” Lunney said to the crowd’s dismay.

Jespersen is against the project personally, he said, but as a director with the Alberni Environmental Coalition he is taking a wait and see approach with the project’s final draft.

Miller called for the assessment to be scrutinized so that the project’s impact could be accurately gauged, while Maartman suggested the process be held at arm’s length from government.

Coal may be part of B.C.’s history, “But we’re looking at a vision for the future,” she said.

Port Alberni resident Jim Dorward asked candidates about the impact of the softwood lumber agreement, which he said was a detriment to the Valley.

Signing the agreement was prudent, improved the economy, and substantial federal investments have since been made in local mills, Lunney said.

There’s nothing lost when logs are left in the forest, Jespersen said to a quieted crowd.

Doing so allows them to absorb carbon and grow big enough so that they’re more valuable when cut in our own mills later.

Raw log exports should be restricted and more jobs created in local mills through value-added products. “Our logs – our jobs,” Maartman said.

While local expertise should be canvassed the issue is complicated.

“The logs are more valuable internationally than they are in Canada,” Miller said.


Fringe political parties tried to step up at the forum. Read the article here.

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