Around a hundred Nakuspians attended the all-candidates forum on May 2. Originally slated to be held in the Seniors’ Hall, it was quickly seen that more seats would be needed, so the event was moved to the Nakusp Arena Auditorium.
Moderator Pat Dion started the forum with these questions for each candidate: what is the most important issue in your view, and what are the main challenges in the riding.
Independent Glen Byle from Trail started off, stating that voter apathy is the biggest issue and the overburdening of the healthcare system the main challenge in the riding. Castlegar-based Jim Postnikoff said jobs and economy were the most important issues, and getting people on the same page in the region was critical. NDP candidate Katrine Conroy said the forest industry and a sustainable economy is still what is important in Nakusp and the area, and listed healthcare, seniors, education, the environment and rural issues as being challenges. The independent from Nakusp Joseph Hughes identified free representation in government as important and keeping families in the area, loss of sovereignty over water as being challenges in the area.
Glen Byle said he wanted to get the people’s voice heard in Victoria, and proposed a technology-driven system that would allow greater democratic engagement by citizens.
Jim Postnikoff, a former millwright and business owner and operator, said his focus was to create jobs and keep the economy moving forward.
Katrine Conroy said she wouldn’t make promises she couldn’t keep, that the issues her party was focusing on were making possibilities for skills and education, taxation on large corporations not small business and addressing child poverty.
Joseph Hughes said he felt governments were no longer responsible to the people, bringing up the Columbia River Treaty and how it has benefitted agriculture in Washington state to the detriment of farmland up in B.C.
The first question from the audience was about a Compensation Equity Act proposal which would seek to level the pay scales of government employees with their private sector counterparts.
Joseph Hughes: “There’s an impressive disconnect between public employees and others.” He gave the example of the MLA severance of a year’s salary given to MLAs who were not re-elected as that disconnect. He was in favour of legislation.
Katrine Conroy: Said she wasn’t sure where the disconnect was, and would focus on raising the wages of low income earners. She defended the MLA severance, saying a lot of the money goes back into communities.
Jim Postnikoff: “Bureaucrats don’t have easy jobs.” Agreed with Conroy, but added a core review of salaries after the election would be a good idea.
Glen Byle: Asked why private wages were so low, and stated that companies siphon money from communities to shareholders.
School Board Trustee Patty Adam asked the candidates how they would make predictable and stable funding available for school boards.
Glen Byle: Taxpayers need to have more input on where funding goes, more say on where their tax dollars go.
Jim Postnikoff: An improved economy will mean stable funding, no more debt should be taken on by the province.
Katrine Conroy: All school districts are different and rural districts need different funding. The Liberal government abandoned rural B.C.
Joseph Hughes: Government should empower communities to find solutions, work with communities to find solutions.
What is the opinion of the candidates on a fixed link at Beaton?
Joseph Hughes: Supports a fixed link, and believes a bridge needs to be part of the plan for growth in the region.
Katrine Conroy: Will commit with BACA and community to make their voice heard in Victoria.
Jim Postnikoff: A bridge is a must; how we get it is unknown but it is the thing to revive the area. Why has it not been brought up before, he asked.
Glen Byle: “I have a guaranteed solution: hold the 2020 Summer Olympics in Nakusp. You’ll get all the infrastructure you need.” Commented that the ferry ride was nice for tourists although did get frustrating for residents.
What are the candidates’ positions on the Columbia River Treaty?
Glen Byle: People need to be aware of local issues, and if they are interested, he will push for what they want.
Jim Postnikoff: The treaty needs to be negotiated with an increase in compensation as well as environmental considerations such as fish ladders.
Katrine Conry: A good strong voice is needed at the table. Downstream benefits go to Victoria and not to the Basin, but the NDP have worked and will work to bring more back to our area.
Joseph Hughes: Water is now held under NAFTA and we are obligated to provide it to the U.S.; this needs to be changed so Canada has sovereignty over its water. Water levels need to be stable, and the treaty process needs to be a public conversation.
What do the candidates think about the declaration of the Sinixt as extinct and the giving of land in the Wensley bench area to the Ktunaxa?
Joseph Hughes: It was a surprise, and an example of local people not being involved or informed about decisions that affect them. Conversations need to bring all parties to the same table. The land gift was a surprise to some first nations and seemed to coincide with election time.
Katrine Conroy: It’s ridiculous that the federal government have declared the Sinixt extinct, and the timing of the incremental treaty signing land over to the Ktunaxa is suspect. The land has the potential for industrial usage but could now be caught up in a protracted legal battle.
Jim Postnikoff: If DNA evidence exists that there are Sinixt still living, then their ruled extinction can be overturned.
Glen Byle: Not informed on issue, but is dedicated to getting people informed on issues like this.
Would the candidates allow an opt out option for smart meters?
Glen Byle: Not everyone is for smart meters, and they don’t need to be forced on people.
Jim Postnikoff: People should have a choice whether or not to have them.
Katrine Conroy: Hydro did not follow proper procedure and go through the BC Utilities Commission. “We are telling people if you don’t want it, it can be removed. You can opt out.”
Joseph Hughes: There are problems with opting out, such as moving into a place that has a meter installed, but supports the opt out option. People should be allowed to choose.
What are the candidates positions on the flooding of Site C?
Joseph Hughes: Opposed to it; it is a big solutions with big consequences when smaller solutions can be found. Better tech and local industry are better solutions.
Katrine Conroy: It doesn’t need to be built. Class A farmland that will be needed as climate change progresses will be flooded. It would be better to retrofit the Duncan Dam for energy production.
Jim Postnikoff: Site C is crucial to support the liquid natural gas sector. The energy sector up north will pay off long term debt taken on to build the dam.
Glen Byle: Admitted he was undereducated on the issue, but recognized the need to get people educated about issues like this one.
What do candidate think about GMO (genetically modified organism) labelling?
Glen Byle: Not fond of GMO, because once it’s allowed, it’s difficult to control. It’s up to people if they would like to see labelling or not.
Jim Postnikoff: “Don’t like ‘em.” Labelling for all GMO products.
Katrine Conroy: Disappointed that Alex Atamenenko’s private members bill didn’t pass. Would like to see labelling.
Joseph Hughes: In favour of GMO labelling.
What do the candidate thing of providing local timber licenses and the environmental oversight of licenses?
Joseph Hughes: NACFOR is an excellent example of local oversight. The removal of infrastructure from environmental assessment is disturbing.
Katrine Conroy: NACFOR is an example of a well-managed forest. An inventory will be made of woodlots to rectify any problems with BC Timber Sales. There aren’t people out doing environmental assessments any more, and they are needed.
Jim Postnikoff: Local timber licenses are a must. “Those local timber licenses translate into jobs, and jobs are what we need to keep moving forward.”
Glen Byle: “I know this one.” Keep it local and keep it small.
What about decriminalization or legalization of marijuana?
Joseph Hughes: In favour of decriminalization, with controls like the ones on alcohol. “It could be a big benefit for this community.”
Katrine Conroy: In favour of decriminalization, although it is a federal matter. It would allow the largest agricultural crop in B.C. to become public revenue.
Jim Postnikoff: “I’m a man of not many words.” Would work for what constituents want.
Glen Byle: Promise to make it impossible for the government to ignore issues people want addressed.