Community engagement is key to making sure that the Alberni Valley isn’t forgotten after Oct. 19, according to NDP candidate Gord Johns.
“We’re all tired of Ottawa coming to the west coast and telling us how we’re going to move forward. We need to go to Ottawa and say this is what we need,” said Johns.
Part of that will be access to federal funding for BC Ferries.
“We will make ferry infrastructure, including terminals and fleets, an eligible category for federal funding under the New Building Canada Fund,” said Johns.
“My strength is being able to work against political and cultural lines and create relationships—and that’s what I’ve done in Port Alberni.”
That strength, Johns said, will be used to fight for what he sees as the most important issues in Port Alberni; jobs and the economy, protecting the environment, healthcare and proportional representation.
Jobs and the economy will be first on the list.
“The economy will be No. 1 because it affects everything in the Valley,” said Johns.
“Port Alberni is near the bottom of almost every socioeconomic indicator in the province of B.C. and it stems down from the economy and the lack of jobs.”
Jobs will come from investment in manufacturing, Johns said.
“We’ve got $400 million that we’re investing in manufacturing,” said Johns. A big part of that, he added, is not shipping out unprocessed products like raw logs.
“We’ve earmarked $40 million of that for forest communities.”
He points to countries like Sweden that he says have tackled their raw log exports by investing in manufacturing and value-added production.
“The ‘rip and ship’ mentality isn’t working for anyone whether it be in forestry, in mining or oil and gas.”
He questions the Conservative Party’s track record on both the environment and social issues.
“You can’t let another generation slip through the cracks; Port Alberni deserves better,” said Johns.
“All the tools are in place for a healthy economy in Port Alberni; the educational institutions, a really strong local government, economic development leaders, a really vibrant chamber of commerce, a Community Futures that’s engaged, training programs through North Island College and the Nuu-chah-nulth Economic Development Corporation that are doing really innovative work.”
What’s lacking is commitment to what surrounds it; the infrastructure, he said.
“We know that Port Alberni is running at an annual deficit of $2 million a year in infrastructure; it’s next to impossible now for the tax base in Port Alberni to keep the infrastructure up, nevermind invest in new infrastructure,” said Johns.
The NDP, he said, will fix that.
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“We’ve got a plan to increase the gas tax by one cent.”
That small increase will deliver $1.5 billion in new infrastructure spending to municipalities and $1.3 billion in transportation spending, he said.
“That’s annual increases,” Johns said.
“For municipalities one of their biggest problems is that don’t have long-term stable funding.”
One-time grants aren’t enough, Johns added—long-term, non-partisan funding needs to be created.
“Port Alberni is primed and waiting for some action,” Johns said.
“There just hasn’t been a voice.”