Candidates debate trail use, education and forestry

Candidates debate trail use, education and forestry

Candidates debate trail use, education and forestry

If you are going to decide your vote in the May 9th provincial election based on where the candidates stand on trail use, you are probably looking in the direction of Liberal MLA Linda Larson.

The locally-hot topic of off road vehicles on the Trans Canada Trail and the Kettle Valley Rail Trail got varied responses from the four candidates for Boundary Similkameen at an all candidates meeting Friday night held at the Princeton Legion.

“I’m a believer in a multi-use trail in general,” Larson told the audience of about 40. “I know this is a contentious issue. Whenever possible if there are conflicts the community itself has to have input.”

Larson was the only one on stage who showed clear support for a shared trail, while NDP candidate Colleen Ross expressed the opposite view.

“You should know that we have 600,000 km of forestry roads in this province,” she said, suggesting that off road vehicle riders have more options than just the TCC.

Ross said she is a frequent trail user, a hiker and skier, in her home community of Grand Forks.

“These ATV Clubs, they are great lobbyists but then they have more money than cross-country skiers.”

Bonnie Lavers, representing the Green Party, said: “There are reasons why laws and rules would be attached [to sections of the trail].”

Dr. Peter Entwistle, an independent candidate running on a health care reform platform, said he supports trail activities for their health-related benefits.

The candidates spent two hours answering questions posed by audience members, asked through moderator George Elliott.

The issues ranged from support for mining, the opioid crisis, funding for chambers of commerce, and problems within the health care system.

Larson was on the spot more than once, as Ross took aim at the current government’s policies. The back and forth became somewhat personal when the NDP candidate called Liberal support for private education “shameful.”

Ross said: “We are burning out our teachers…We are going to do something about it. We are here for public education.”

Larson countered with the government’s commitment to spend $500,000 million in classrooms in the next three years.

“I resent my grandchildren being told by the opposition that they have had less than a stellar education because they have done very well.”

The candidates also crossed swords over support for forestry.

“I think the forestry industry is in good shape in BC and we continue to protect jobs for those people,” said Larson. “We have kept our focus on creating jobs and strengthening the economy.”

Ross said the province has lost 30,000 forestry jobs under the current administration.

“Thirty thousand jobs just gone. We care about jobs. We care about unions and we care about people.”

Lavers reminded the panel about the importance of pursing renewable energy and supporting small and medium sized businesses that are less reliant on natural resources.

Entwistle said he supports good paying jobs and improved employment as they create quality of life.

“Work is important to overall health,” he said.

Several of the questions from the audience addressed problems within the health care system, and dissected various strategies to improve wait times for surgeries and access to family doctors.

“Like many problems it seems simple, but it’s not,” said Entwistle. “It’s always more complicated. It’s not true to say he have too few doctors, but we use them appalling badly.”

The all candidates forum was sponsored by the Princeton and District Chamber of Commerce.

BC Votes 2017