Cariboo North candidates discuss agriculture and education

The third set of questions the Tribune asked candidates in the election is about their stance on agriculture and education as follows:

  • May. 6, 2013 3:00 p.m.

The third set of questions the Tribune asked the candidates running in the provincial election is about their stance on agriculture and education as follows:

What is needed to protect and enhance ranching and agriculture in the Cariboo-Chilcotin and the province in general? Specifically, what is needed to create a viable meat processing industry in B.C. for ranchers?

What is needed in B.C. to protect and enhance the public school system, especially in large districts such as School District 27?

Answers are as follows:

On agriculture:

MLA Bob Simpson, Independent (incumbent), Cariboo North

The NDP’s proposed agriculture strategy, if implemented, is a good start: “Grow BC, Buy BC, Feed BC.”

To help with the economics of the sector I would like to see the BC Liberals promise of an exemption from the carbon tax for agriculture fuels (marked gas) implemented by the next government and major changes to the PST to align it more with the GST. We also need a real succession plan for the sector that will attract, incent and support younger families to enter this sector and be successful.

We need to take the BC Liberals proposed changes to the meat slaughter regulations and make them province-wide, not just a pilot project in the Okanagan. This would help to restore farm-gate sales while assisting abattoirs that have invested in order to obey the new regulations to broaden their market potential in the local and regional retail business.

Duncan Barnett, New Democratic Party, Cariboo-North

An NDP government will recognize the contribution agriculture makes to the economy and community stability.

We will work collaboratively with the agricultural sector, local governments and the federal government to implement programs and policies that support producers.

I intend to use my experience to ensure that NDP commitments to strengthen the Agricultural Land Reserve and invest carbon tax revenues in green infrastructure translate into a benefit for well-managed farms and ranches that provide ecological goods and services to society.

I like the NDP platform on agriculture which lays out a comprehensive plan to Grow BC, Feed BC and Buy BC.

The plan supports quality local production and brings back the very successful BuyBC marketing initiative scrapped by the Liberals in 2001.

Lana Popham, the NDP agriculture critic, visited my campaign in Williams Lake and I was able to facilitate a meeting with people directly impacted by the changes to meat regulations. Producers and processors need a consistent and stable regulatory approach that creates a level playing field. Consumers want to know their food is safe.

The Liberal’s haphazard approach has done neither. An NDP government will work with stakeholders to implement an accessible, affordable and appropriate meat inspection system that ensures food safety and facilitates market access at respective local, provincial and federal levels.

Coralee Oakes, Liberal Party, Cariboo North

I know first hand through my parents, the difficulties that the ranching and agricultural sector is currently facing.

I would like B.C. to be the healthiest jurisdiction in North America (and the world for that matter) and I feel a cornerstone of good health is a strong agricultural sector.

We need to recognize and put adequate value on local food.

I am pleased that we are doubling funding for buy local campaigns and that we are supporting programs that introduce children in our schools to healthier food options.

I attended the cattlemen’s annual general meeting several months ago and heard clearly how the carbon tax was affecting their businesses.

I am pleased that our government has announced that we will offer carbon tax relief on coloured fuel for the agricultural sector.

Today’s BC Liberals have demonstrated strong support for B.C.’s ranchers, providing more than $16 million over the last 10 years to help ranchers and farmers deal with predators that threaten livestock and livelihoods.

Predator control has been a consistent area of concern as I door knock.

I know the tireless work Donna Barnett has done to support ranchers and having the mobile abattoir stationed in 100 Mile House will help.

In further conversation with Donna, I agree that we need to provide easy and affordable access to slaughter and processing facilities.

On education:

MLA Bob Simpson, Independent (incumbent), Cariboo North

The NDP’s platform promise of more funding for education doesn’t outline the “practical steps” that an NDP government would take to address the real issue confronting rural School Districts which is the funding formula itself.

We need the per student funding formula that the BC Liberals imposed to be changed to one that reflects the reality that rural School Districts must receive direct funding for rural/remote schools and for a widely distributed school population that requires significant busing. If the funding formula isn’t changed then SD 27 will continue to see school closures despite a change in government.

The provincial government must also fully fund School Districts for all collective bargaining agreement costs, government imposed cost increases (MSP, Carbon Tax, etc.) and for real inflation.

Duncan Barnett, New Democratic Party, Cariboo North

New Democrats have committed to investing $100 million into our school system to hire more teachers, librarians, counsellors, education assistants and other educational support staff.

Large school districts with small rural schools face unique challenges such as transportation costs and an unsuitable student funding formula.  Many small communities have low student numbers and declining student enrolment, creating pressure to close schools, which compromises education for our youth.

Schools are the heart of many small communities.

I believe communities must find ways to keep rural schools open, and I will continue to support these efforts.

Other parts of the NDP platform will also benefit rural schools.

Eliminating the penalties imposed on schools by the Pacific Carbon Trust will help, as will our commitments to strengthen rural communities through support for rural economic development initiatives and investment in a balanced and diversified resource economy.

Coralee Oakes, Liberal Party, Cariboo North

Achieving long-term labour peace is key – kids benefit when learning is not repeatedly disrupted.

This is why our government proposed an innovative framework to achieve a 10-year labour contract with teachers.

This framework would have a dedicated fund to address policy priorities, a policy council that includes teachers, and salary certainty.

Supporting large, rural school districts to address our unique challenges is also important.  School boards are better able to plan with stable funding so we introduced funding protection – districts with declining enrolment cannot receive less than 98.5 per cent of the previous year’s funding.

Education in rural B.C. is changing.

To keep up, today’s BC Liberal government has been engaging in initiatives to ensure we continue to support rural learners and educators.

We’ve established the Provincial Rural Strategy Advisory Council to inform education policy development.

In partnership with UBC, we’ve worked to spread exemplary innovative practice that’s emerging from rural schools.

Our Rural Educator Network is helping educators access more learning opportunities, and we’ve partnered with the Mitchell Odyssey Foundation to encourage excellence in science in rural communities.

Today’s BC Liberals remain committed to providing the highest quality education for rural communities.