North Coast candidates answer six questions about Haida Gwaii

MLA hopefuls list jobs, affordability, green power and coastal protection as top priorities.

How should the islands’ two ferry routes be improved?

Hondo Arendt

We need to recognize that some things have benefits, including economic benefits, beyond the obvious dollars and cents being tallied directly when government is funding services. If we offer free child care then parents can enter the workforce, earn more money, and pay more taxes. If post-secondary education is relatively cheap then people can access education and improve their careers with the similar economic benefits. Likewise, a well-funded ferry system allows people to travel easily. This leads to more tourism. This allows people to travel for work. This allows goods and services to flow more easily. For the past 16 years we’ve had a government that simply looks at “the bottom line” and tries to “save” money by reducing funding for ferries, education, and help for parents. We need to re-invest in our ferry systems and remember why we have them in the first place. The point of the system is to connect British Columbia and allow transportation to happen, not to run a temporary “profit.”

Herb Pond

I’ve heard loud and clear that access is a really big issue – whether ferries or flights. It affects business, health, affordability, recreation, mail – life in general. Obviously, the schedules don’t work, and fares and booking systems create barriers. Sandspit families feel like they are under curfew. Much more needs to be done. Local leaders have worked with the province to secure some improvements on the ferry front. I want to help bring more. Partisan politics and grandstanding don’t get the results that matter. We need a clear plan and a strong coalition of partners from across the north who will stand together. I look forward to bringing my experience to the challenge.

Jennifer Rice

First and foremost, the BC NDP is committed to reducing the ferry fares used by Haida Gwaii residents by 15 per cent. Christy Clark and the BC Liberals have increased fares and reduced services year after year because they don’t understand the needs of people in Haida Gwaii and coastal communities. In addition to reducing fares, we will bring back the 100 per cent seniors’ weekday discount. I also want to be there to work with local communities on schedules. When the BC Liberals imposed schedule changes they did it without a full cost analysis to coastal economies and without considering the travel burden Haida Gwaii residents already face. Scheduling should allow students to get to school on time and participate in after-school programs such as sports and cultural events. Workers travelling to and from Sandspit should be able to put in a full day’s work and be able to attend evening meetings on Graham Island.

What more can the province do to increase local forestry jobs?

Hondo Arendt

Our current government has tried to make things as profitable as possible for large companies. The result of this is that many corporations have decided to move their processing operations overseas, especially to East Asia in order to take advantage of wages equivalent to about one Canadian dollar an hour. This may make sense for a company, or an individual owner, and create higher profits for a limited few, but it doesn’t make any true economic or environmental sense. We are shipping logs (and our regions ships out a higher percentage of raw logs than any other region in B.C.) to Asia to be processed and then shipped back to be sold in Canada. We are wasting huge amounts of fossil fuel with the only effective goal being to try to ensure the concentration of wealth into fewer hands. The Green Party firmly believes in processing resources in the region where those resources are.

Herb Pond

The solution needs to come from Haida Gwaii, not Victoria. Islanders live in the middle of one of the world’s great timber areas, yet the local forestry economy isn’t close to realizing its full potential. It needs a complete rethink. Islanders need more say. The goal must be long-term access to a good fibre supply for local jobs and local business. I’m encouraged by the level of community cooperation and innovation surrounding the community forest proposal. I’ve heard frustration with the way it’s become stalled, and I want to help make this project a priority by making sure the government is engaged with the CHN, communities, and other concerned parties. I’ll join with local leaders and others to bring forward a plan that produces real opportunities for islanders over the long run. I’ll take responsibility for my portions of the plan, and expect to be held accountable for delivering real results.

Jennifer Rice

The skills of forestry workers, carvers, and craftspeople is outstanding on Haida Gwaii. Our forestry plan maximizes the potential of Haida Gwaii natural resources: the people and the trees. B.C. wood products can be the building material of the future, at home and abroad. We will maximize the use of innovative B.C. wood products in infrastructure projects, like schools, hospitals, and rental-housing construction, and ask the federal government to do the same. We will offer incentives to B.C. builders who use engineered wood products and to B.C. companies starting innovative wood manufacturing operations. We will expand efforts to market B.C.’s high-quality wood products to the world. We will invest in the future by expanding reforestation across BC. Renewing our forests will create jobs now and ensure long-term success of the forest industry. We will stand up for B.C. in softwood lumber negotiations with the U.S., and fight hard for a fair deal that protects and creates jobs here in B.C.

How can the province help Haida Gwaii get off diesel power, especially in the north?

Hondo Arendt

Changing how Haida Gwaii is powered would be a top priority for the Green Party. Getting off of the fossil-fuel addiction is obviously one of the top priorities of the Green movement in general. Unfortunately our society has typically made most decisions by simply asking, “What is the cheapest solution?” And fossil fuel is cheap. If your only goal is to get maximum amount of energy for the lowest number of dollars then oil, coal, and natural gas will win. The Green Party’s position is that we need to do two things to change this. We need to recognize the other costs of fossil fuels (such as climate change and damage to air or water quality) in our decision making, and we NEED to change the energy tax structure so that alternative energy sources can compete. For Haida Gwaii, we would encourage local production of green energy, whether that be a number of small projects or sensible larger projects. In the interim it would also make sense to connect all of Haida Gwaii to the general B.C. grid so the energy is, at the very least produced primarily by hydro power.

Herb Pond

I’m impressed with the solutions already in place, like the pellet-fired generator in Port. And although there have been challenges, using on-island wood waste to generate power is one of several ideas that might make sense. There are also some regional fuel sources like BC wood pellets, natural gas or propane, that could be shipped from new facilities in Prince Rupert – all cleaner alternatives with abundant supply. And renewable sources such as wind and tidal are right at our doorstep, waiting to be explored. I’ll work with local leaders on the projects that make the most sense to them.

Jennifer Rice

The BC NDP has put forward our PowerBC plan. This would increase support for renewable energy production like solar and wind power. Projects where we can partner with communities and First Nations in Haida Gwaii to replace the diesel generators is both good for our environment but it is also good for local people. Haida Gwaii is already showing leadership in converting to renewable energy sources with all the work that has already been done on the islands. A BC NDP government would be a supportive partner in these endeavours.

How can Victoria help local housing groups keep their subsidized units after the federal CMHC grants run out?

Hondo Arendt

The province needs to buy into the idea that housing is part of their mandate. We have trouble with affordable housing in all parts of the province and a big part of the problem is that the BC government has effectively stepped away from helping to ensure that people can get access to housing under the hopes that ‘free-market’ forces will simply take care of the issue. As a result, we’ve seen public housing maintenance (and new construction) all but disappear. So it is no surprise that, from small towns to large cities, affordable housing is one of the hottest issues in the election. We need a government that will help facilitate the access to quality housing through changes to the property transfer tax (to reduce speculation and allow cheaper transfers of low cost housing), blocking reno-victions, re-investing in public housing, and (in this case) taking on a new responsibility even though it may cost the province money.

Herb Pond

I’m thankful for the insights I received from Mayor Martin on the good work already underway. Local community and First Nations leaders in Prince Rupert and Port Edward have successfully attracted affordable and seniors’ housing grants from the province to construct 86 units. Like Mayor Martin, they were successful not because of protesting, but by working in collaboration. I’ll work with local leaders in each community on Haida Gwaii to secure similar support for their projects.

Jennifer Rice

The BC NDP is committed to affordable housing, including building 114,000 new housing units in B.C., but also supporting organizations that invest in social housing. Christy Clark and the BC Liberals have taken government out of the business of affordable housing to the benefit of their wealthy donors. The BC NDP have committed to directing revenues from the absentee speculators tax into our Housing Affordability Fund to support subsidized housing units throughout BC.

What would LNG terminals on the mainland mean for Haida Gwaii?

Hondo Arendt

If LNG terminals were built there would be some clear impacts on Haida Gwaii. LNG tanker traffic would obviously skyrocket, as would the risk of nautical disasters. And, while the LNG industry often points out that accidents involving their ships are less environmentally harmful than accidents involving oil tankers, it is generally a very weak argument. The argument is that their fuel doesn’t flood into the ocean, but rather boils off into a vapour harmlessly entering the atmosphere. Of course it isn’t ‘harmless’ since that dumps massive amounts of climate-changing methane into the atmosphere. There is also the very real risk of large-scale explosions in these situations (especially in windy conditions, which is what you typically have when a ship runs aground). The Green Party does not support the construction of LNG terminals on the North Coast. We also favour making the ocean territory around Haida Gwaii a no-go zone for all large ship traffic. I think that anyone opposed to LNG development has a pretty clear choice in this election as both the Liberals and NDP support moving ahead with multiple North Coast projects.

Herb Pond

So much depends on the approach taken by Haida Gwaii. There is already a great deal of traffic passing near Haida Gwaii. Done right, LNG could be one of the least problematic cargoes, yet could pay for locally based incident response capacity that actually increases protection from all of the existing traffic and creates good local jobs. LNG could also be a much cleaner burning and safer fuel source in ferries and power plants. Finally, there are substantial opportunities in negotiating Impact Benefit Agreements, or similar arrangements, that provide revenue streams, funding for community assets like swimming pools, or training and employment. LNG has become such a polarizing issue that it’s easy to miss what we want if it does go ahead.

Jennifer Rice

If an LNG terminal is built on the mainland it will need to meet four criteria to be accepted under an NDP government. It must ensure the region sees a fair share of the financial benefits; it must include legislated requirements for local jobs and local training; it must partner with First Nations; and it must respect current and future environmental regulations. This means an LNG terminal under an NDP government would see greater local financial benefits for the region than it would under a BC Liberal government. We support the Northwest Resource Benefits Alliance in ensuring a fair share of the benefits of major industry to local communities. It would also mean that our land, air and water would be protected and we would still meet our climate change commitments.

If elected, what are your top two priorities for Haida Gwaii?

Hondo Arendt

I think our top priorities would be what is already mentioned above: changing how Haida Gwaii is powered and protecting its shoreline from tanker traffic. But since I am allowed 150 words, I will add this. I would like to thank the people of Haida Gwaii for their support of the Green Party over the last few elections. Haida Gwaii is the heart of support for the Green Party in the North Coast riding (we won several polls there last election). We have very little budget, but thanks to you we have continued to grow. We received 2 per cent of the vote the first time we ran a candidate here. In the subsequent elections we went to 5 per cent, then 6 per cent, then 8 per cent, and then over 10 per cent in the last election. We elected our first Green MLA last election and we are polling at the highest level we ever have. We’ve gotten here thanks to people willing to vote for a party because they really believe in it, even though they may not expect that party to win. We’ve gone from getting a paltry one vote out of 50 here just a few elections ago to getting almost one in nine. This election we will do even better.

Herb Pond

As a father, soon-to-be grandfather and former mayor, it all comes down to creating the kinds of healthy communities that offer our children the same opportunities that we’ve enjoyed. It starts with a good secure job, rooted in a strong local economy with quality housing, education, healthcare, and recreation. I want them to be able to stay closer to home, raise their families here, and care for their elders. Equally important is protecting and passing on the “natural capital” of the healthy environment that sustains us today. Everywhere I go people keep saying to me that even though they’ve voted one way nearly their entire lives, this time, they are thinking about a change. They want to bring back jobs while protecting our environment, and they want an MLA who will do away with partisan attacks and focus on real results.

Jennifer Rice

Life has become less affordable under Christy Clark’s government. If elected, my highest priority for Haida Gwaii is to make life more affordable for people by freezing hydro rates, reducing ferry fares by 15 per cent, and eliminating medical services premiums. My second priority is the economy. Christy Clark has been managing our economy just like Stephen Harper did. She has put all her attention on the oil and gas sector at the expense of all others. I’m focused on building a sustainable economy that aligns with our values. For example, we will create B.C. jobs with B.C. logs, for today and tomorrow. We will support our local fisheries and will make new investments in renewable energy through our PowerBC plan.

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