Cariboo-Chilcotin electoral hopefuls Donna Barnett (Liberal), Sally Watson (NDP) and Rita Giesbrecht (Green) get ready for the Williams Lake and District Chamber of Commerce all-candidates forum held Thursday at Signal Point Gaming Centre.

Cariboo-Chilcotin electoral hopefuls Donna Barnett (Liberal), Sally Watson (NDP) and Rita Giesbrecht (Green) get ready for the Williams Lake and District Chamber of Commerce all-candidates forum held Thursday at Signal Point Gaming Centre.

Cariboo-Chilcotin candidates take part in all-candidates forum

Cariboo Chilcotin provincial election hopefuls squared off during the Williams Lake and District Chamber of Commerce all-candidates forum held last Thursday at Signal Point Gaming Centre.

The event, which attracted 90 people, saw Donna Barnett (Liberal), Rita Giesbrecht (Green) and Sally Watson (NDP) answer 22 questions ranging from tourism, the softwood lumber dispute to rail tie burning at Atlantic Power.

Tsilhqot’in National Government Chair and Tl’etinqox (Anaham) Chief Joe Alphonse asked the candidates how they would deal with the issue of violent crime and gangs in the Williams Lake area.

Watson said violence issues in the area are serious and the NDP would work on bringing more mental health workers in.

“Currently if you have a youth with a mental health issue you may have to wait six weeks before they get to see a psychiatrist,” she said.

Barnett said the government has an integrated community task force in place with all agencies working together to help youth and people in need.

“The most important thing is to educate and get people working. We need industry and we need to keep young people off the streets and out of gangs,” Barnett said.

Giesbrecht said a lot of her answers do not involve a “silver bullet.”

“All of the Green Party’s policies form a web that is based on the social determinants of health — income stability, affordable housing, early childhood education and continuing education that goes right through life,” she said.

The candidates were asked if elected how they would support the growth of tourism in Williams Lake and area.

Watson said the NDP look forward to having the Central Coast ferry back in place to help with the circle tour through the Chilcotin.

“It was sad that we lost that,” Watson said. “I know that we are working constantly on bicycle trails and snowmobile trails for recreation and I think your best draw is the rodeo.”

Barnett said when the ferry was cancelled she was the only one that stood up and said it was wrong.

“I fought for a new ferry with a committee from the Chilcotin and Williams Lake,” Barnett said, noting without the whole region working and co-operating together as it always does, all the money in the world won’t help. “Tourism is great and will grow.”

Giesbrecht said the biggest advocate is the Cariboo Chilcotin Coast Tourism Association.

“The absolute first thing would be to remove the barriers and the restrictions that are on that body,” she said, noting more money, independent marketing of the area and energetic branding within the Destination B.C. framework are all needed.

In the softwood lumber dispute, B.C. stands to lose the most, Barnett said.

“The Premier has taken a strong stand and will continue to take a strong stand. She is working very diligently and she has no paid union members in her campaign from the U.S. who are working for the softwood lumber agreement and the lumber manufacturers in the U.S.”

Giesbrecht said the question is not about softwood lumber specifically, but how will the region creatively move into a phase out of timber harvesting as it has been known the last 15 years and creatively “rejig” the whole process.

NDP leader John Horgan will go to Washington, D.C. and negotiate, Watson said.

“As a province we have to work hard to make this happen and we will. As far as big money coming in from Steelworkers, I’m a member in good standing and the likelihood of me getting a directive from Pittsburg is about equal to having me beamed up to the Enterprise,” Watson said.

Moderator Jason Ryll asked the candidates if they would do anything to stop the “controversial” rail tie burning at Atlantic Power even if the science indicated there was no environmental hazard.

Giesbrecht said it has been indicated there are environmental implications to burning rail ties.

“Even if the air could be controlled, the ash is still slated to be piled up on the side of the Fraser River in an area that’s already vastly exceeded its parameters,” she said.

Watson said according to Minister of Energy and Mines Bill Bennett, the province has been paying biomass burners to not burn.

“It’s excess power that we don’t need and because of the contracts that were made by the Liberal government, they pay these operations not to work,” Watson said. “It amazes me that they haven’t found a way to deal with independent power projects to make sure we are not overpaying for power, I know that this is a huge question for me and other people I talk to.”

Barnett said the decision is not made by politicians but by independent statutory decision makers who make the decisions based on science.

“If politicians are going to start to make these kinds of decisions then they better be scientists,” Barnett said.

Full answers from the candidates after Tsilhqot’in National Government Chair and Tl’etinqox Chief Joe Alphonse asks them how they would deal with violent crime and gang issues in Williams Lake and surrounding area.