Gary Coons, NDP candidate

  • May. 10, 2005 10:00 a.m.

Will your party continue to reduce both business and personal taxes to ensure that BC remains competitive with its neighbours and an attractive place to invest and work?
ANS: We will ensure a strategic and competitive tax and regulatory environment that stimulates and supports innovation, job creation and diversification, ie: no corporate tax for non-financial institutions, no new taxes for small businesses, reduce regulatory costs while maintaining high standards, just to name a few.

How would your government work to increase employment opportunities on the islands?
ANS: First Nations issues re: land claims must be acknowledged as per the Supreme Court of Canada’s rulings. Once First Nations issues have been addressed in a consistent and respectful manner, then economic potential will be more viable. The Regional Economic Development fund of 200 million dollars was set aside in the NDP platform, of which Haida Gwaii could apply to for funding. Alternative energy, such as wind and tidal energy, could be developed for energy and the technology could be marketed as well as the energy these technologies produce. Traditional industries such as fisheries and forestry would be subject to local scrutiny ie: Weyerhauser would be accountable to Islanders. Tourism will continue to grow and services such as BC Ferries will be maintained or improved.

What is your position on the privatization of Crown Corporations? What is your position on reversing the process?
ANS:The Crown Corporations belongs to all British Columbians and should be kept in the public domain in order to provide accessible and efficient services and make a profit for the province as a whole, not for a privileged few. The reversal of privatization is difficult, if not impossible (i.e.: BC Rail) but we must move on, New Democrats are committed to restoring BC Ferries and Health Care, at the very least, back into the public domain as these services are a right for all British Columbians.

70% of all visitors to BC visit the Vancouver coastal area and mountains. If elected, what would your government do to encourage the tourists to visit the rest of the province, particularly these islands.
ANS: The BC Ferries are integral for locals and tourists alike. Highways are also integral and we will continue to promote the “Golden Triangle” experience. Both must be maintained and improved on in an orderly fashion.

How will your government ensure that the BC timber sales for small business are protected and expanded to allow greater opportunities for small businesses?
ANS: Through mutual consultation with all stakeholders, not just a select few.

New forestry legislation is viewed by many as a framework for big companies to have control over forestry resources. Will you commit to consulting with small business and northern communities to better understand concerns and the long-term implications of changes such as the removal of cut levels tied to communities.
ANS: Absolutely.It is an important part of our platform.

3. How would your government implement policies to stop the export of raw logs and require local value-added processing?
ANS: Through Adjacency and Appurtenancy requirements and through small business incentives which promote secondary manufacturing.

What is your stand on lifting of the moratorium for oil and gas exploration in Hecate Strait?
ANS: No, the development of offshore drilling on the Hecate Straight has not been proven safe or even viable. Not until all environmental, First Nations and other issues have been resolved would it be even worth considering. The Oil and Gas industry is facing extinction and it would be of more benefit to develop alternative forms of energy rather than entertain a “pipe dream” with potentially devastating consequences.

If elected, will your government ensure health care clinics are funded for small communities without hospitals, on the QCI islands and other northern communities? ANS:Yes, I and my fellow New Democrats are committed to ensuring we represent all people of this province not just a select few.

The economy and tourism can only advance as swiftly as the transportation system can move goods and people. If elected, will your government ensure that ferry transportation is protected and upgraded for the QC Islands?
ANS: Yes, the QC Islands and their residents need to have a good quality of life. Infastructure must be maintained and improved to ensure just that.

Aboriginal Interests
What is your position on the legal decisions recognizing rights of the Haida?
ANS: We respect the Supreme Court decisions. Would your government honor existing commitments? Definitely, we will not go back on our word as Bill Belsey and the Campbell Liberals have.

Public Education
Across the province, 113 schools have been forced to close because of under-funding. On Haida Gwaii, two of our schools are in small communities where students and parents live in fear of their school closing. What will you do to ensure that no schools are closed in Haida Gwaii/Queen Charlotte?
ANS: In our platform we have made a commitment to the people of this province to put education first and stop arbitarary school closures and create a dedicated fund to help school boards deal with declining enrolment.

During the last four years the BC Liberals have used declining enrollment to justify the cuts made to education. In fact, only one in four of teachers cut can be attributed to declining enrollment. What will you do to ensure that staffing levels are sufficient to provide top notch educational programs?
ANS:We will reinstate policy such as reduced class sizes, increase teacher librarians, councillors and special ed support.

Before the Teachers’ Collective Agreement was stripped by the Liberal government, students had more schools to attend, more selection of courses, more attention in the courses they were taking, more access to libraries, and more support from specialist teachers. What will you do to ensure that these very important aspects of public education are again guaranteed for students?
ANS: We will not rip up negotiated agreements. We will redirect attention towards providing the necessary skills that students will require to be successful in the workforce and away from the idea that education needs can be cut in order to reduce government expenditures. We will restart a universal child care program and ensure that federal funding for this program is directed appropriately, unlike the BC Liberal government.

The Liberal government removed all the contractual protections for students with special needs. Now they are integrated into regular classes without adequate support. This situation has become a great concern in schools of Haida Gwaii/Queen Charlotte. What are you prepared to do to ensure adequate support for students with special needs?
ANS: We will increase training opportunities for ECD and Special Needs childcare workers and increase funding for these programs.

5. Will you support full collective bargaining rights for teachers, including the right to bargain working and learning conditions?
ANS: Yes