High school debate liveliest to date

Secondary students in Williams Lake attended an all candidates forum Tuesday at William Secondary School.

Students from Columneetza and Williams Lake secondary schools heard from six of the seven candidates running in the Cariboo North and Cariboo-Chilcotin ridings during an all candidates forum Tuesday at WLSS.

Each candidate gave opening and closing remarks, and answered questions from students which covered resource industries, copper theft, subsidies for students who have to board in town for school or make the commute, balancing the economy and health, the legalization of marijuana and rising tuition costs.

The first question, directed to the NDP candidates, asked where the money will come from to fund programs if projects such as New Prosperity or Enbridge don’t go through.

NDP candicate Charlie Wyse suggested the NDP platform will find money by increasing corporate taxes and raising taxation of individuals earning more than $150,000 taxable income.

“There’s two main ways the government gets money,” NDP candidate Duncan Barnett said. “One through taxes and one through ‘rents’ of resources, your timber, minerals, oil and gas.”

While the NDP have said “no” to New Prosperity and Enbridge because the party believes they have some “very major” environmental issues, the party has clearly stated it supports mining, agriculture, and is prepared to invest money in those industries, Duncan added.

Cariboo-Chilcotin Liberal Donna Barnett said there’s a difference between debt and deficit and that the Liberals inherited a huge debt and then increased it by building hospitals, cancer clinics, highways, schools, social housing, all the things that are necessary for the social network.

Cariboo-Chilcotin Independent candidate Gary Young described the NDP’s “fully-costed” budget means citizens will pay more and go into debt more. He’d even made a large “people’s credit card” placard and said the government is spending the people’s money.

Responding to a question about financial help for students who live in rural areas, Cariboo North Liberal candidate Coralee Oakes said the mining activity in the region will change the future of the region and benefit local families.

“We have to rethink what our region looks like because of our natural resources and the growth that’s happening,” Oakes said.

When asked how government can balance eliminating debt and looking after the health of citizens, Duncan  said the NDP platform states that people have to be considered the number one resource.

“You invest in your people with education, skills and trades training, and support it with health care so citizens are innovative, creative, contributing members of society,” he said.

Simpson said stopping the subsidization of corporations would be a start.

“We give $4 million of tax subsidy to oil and gas companies in the Peace region, some of the most profitable companies in the world,” he said.

“Natural resources need to be priced appropriately to get more from our forests, minerals and oil and gas revenues.”

Donna said balancing the economy, the environment and social programs, and the expectations that come from citizens is what politicians try to deliver.

“I come from era of common sense,” Donna told the students. “I come from an era of hardworking people, where we didn’t spend more than we had. What politicians have to learn today, which I’ve done all my life, is say ‘no’ to things that aren’t important and ‘yes’ to things that are an necessity.”

Young suggested the money is there.

“My bank made $4.5 million in three months, they don’t pay any taxes in B.C.” he said. “Tax those who should be paying and we can balance the budget and have money to put back in education and health care.”

When asked whether marijuana should be legalized in B.C, Young said he was the only candidate in the campaign who said he supports decriminalization, to which several students whopped and applauded loudly.

“I’ve got support from the courts who are sick and tired of clogging up the courts with this minor thing. The police want to get off this minor thing and get on to real crime,” Young said. “The health care system says it’s good for us in many ways. Let’s get on with it.”

Simpson added he’d said the same thing in 2005 and in 2009.

When asked how the government will either lower tuition or help students pay it off, Duncan said the NPD would put $100 million toward the student grant program, and $20 million for a scholarship fund.

“That money comes from the tax on the banks that was just mentioned.”

Oakes said it’s so important the BC Liberals have introduced the registered savings plan of $1,200 and highlighted the trades training students can start while still in high school, to save money on postsecondary costs.

“If you’re going into medicine and you’ve served in rural places you can get some of that money back. So stay in the north and stay in our rural communities when you look at going back in to work as a doctor, a nurse or in midwifery, those kinds of programs,” Oakes said.

Simpson suggested education needs to be seen as an investment.

“Until we switch it, it will always be nickelled and dimed and you’ll always have to pay for it on your own. The other issue is that persons who are saddled with debt are unable to contribute to the economy.”

In his closing remarks Wyse told the students, the resources of B.C. provide the funds for  needed and required services.

“We require health, education, care for young and old, and one of the things the NPD is providing you is a platform that gives all those issues, while encouraging all industries to flourish,” he said.

Secondary students in Williams Lake will participate in a mock election on May 10. The results of the election cannot be made public until after the official election results are released, said Columeetza secondary school teacher Shannon Rerie.