B.C. Conservative candidate John Martin (left) and the NDP’s Gwen O’Mahony listen to Liberal hopeful Laurie Throness answer a question at the all-candidates meeting on Monday

B.C. Conservative candidate John Martin (left) and the NDP’s Gwen O’Mahony listen to Liberal hopeful Laurie Throness answer a question at the all-candidates meeting on Monday

Chilliwack-Hope candidates debate local issues

With provincial byelection looming, hopefuls try to score political points

The carbon tax, raw log exports and the teachers’ dispute were among the hot topics at Monday’s all-candidates meeting.

About 80 people turned out to the Hope & District Recreation Centre to hear the Chilliwack-Hope byelection contenders weigh in on pressing issues.

BC Conservative candidate John Martin said his top priority is eliminating the carbon tax, which he believes is “extremely punitive” to rural residents in the riding.

“We don’t have transit going back and forth. We have to drive,” he said. “The carbon tax makes absolutely everything more expensive. It has solved nothing. We want to make life more affordable. We can lower taxes and be more efficient.”

BC Liberal candidate Laurie Throness defended the carbon tax, pointing out that it’s revenue-neutral and provides about one billion dollars in personal and business tax relief. If the carbon tax were scrapped, he said the government would have to raise taxes in other areas or go into a deficit.

Gwen O’Mahony said an NDP government would keep the tax, but invest it in transit and alternative forms of transportation. She also noted her party supports rolling back corporate income tax rates to 2008 levels rather than subsiding the cuts through the carbon tax.

When it comes to economy, Martin believes B.C. needs to make itself more financially attractive for investors to “take chances, risk capital, put in the effort and spend resources.” He also said the lack of jobs due to raw log exports needs to be addressed.

“When you have mills closing in this province where forestry has always been a very significant lifeline for smaller communities, there’s been such a mismanagement and negligent overview of looking long term down the road,” said Martin, noting that exports aren’t leaving enough logs for value-added operations.

O’Mahony pointed out the priority should be ensuring B.C. mills receive the tempered products they need, while Throness stressed the importance of log exports in sustaining thousands of forestry jobs.

When asked about the teachers’ dispute, both Martin and O’Mahony accused the government of a creating a “political wedge issue.” Martin said the Liberals’ record of literally tearing up contracts is a breach of confidence that is “absolutely inexcusable” and has resulted in a lack of trust.

“They’re picking a fight. There shouldn’t be legislation, there should have been bargaining,” added O’Mahony.

Throness defended the government’s net-zero mandate, noting how 130 other unions have agreed to the terms. He also pointed out that in 2006, the Liberals approved a 16 per cent raise and a $3,700 signing bonus for every teacher in the province.

“When you look at the $15 trillion debt in the United States, that is going to come home to roost in a year or two. There’s going to be an economic shock and we need to be ready for it,” Throness said, stressing the importance of a balanced budget.

“In the end, things are going to work out because teachers are good people, they are professionals, they care about kids and I think they’re going to work this out for the benefit of students in the province.”

Polls will be open from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. at the Hope Legion, Silver Creek Elementary, Yale Community Centre and Canyon Lanes in Boston Bar on April 19.