Nanaimo-North Cowichan candidates talk top issues

Tariffs on softwood lumber among top items

With just days to go before voters in the province head to the polls, the four candidates in Nanaimo-North Cowichan reflect on what they see as the major issues in the campaign after numerous debates and meeting constituents face to face in the past few weeks:

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The Green Party’s Lia Versaevel said one of the main issues being brought up to her during the campaign is the need for a poverty-reduction plan in the riding, and across the province.

She said the Green’s electoral plan calls for more affordable housing, free day care for children under three years old, and more access to basic adult education.

“The need for this strategy is hitting people in their hearts,” Versaeval said.

“People are saying the Liberals are heartless, and we’re the polar opposites. Clean air, clean water, sustainability and the whole environment package are also critical to people from this riding. People live here for a reason.”

Versaeval said she’s also hearing how critically important it is for government to work on a nation to nation basis with the First Nations in the riding.

“Despite efforts at truth and reconciliation, First Nations are still very marginalized,” she said.

“We need to act to ensure that the respect for First Nations is restored. People have also told me how disappointed they are with the leaders of the Liberals and the NDP during their debates. They’re saying they are like nasty kids in a playground.”

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Issues around the new American tariffs on softwood lumber in the Nanaimo-North Cowichan riding have become a major concern for Doug Routley during the campaign.

Routley, the NDP incumbent for the riding who is running for a third term, said the Liberals have shown no leadership in forestry as jobs in the province continue to disappear in the industry.

“The Liberals were obsessed with LNG, which brought less than $1 billion into B.C. last year, while forestry brought in $13.5 billion in the same time period,” he said.

“We’re being hit hard with log exports and the Liberals have done little to stop this.”

Routley also pointed to the Liberals’ controversial record on education as another reason why the government should be replaced.

He said the government’s unsuccessful 12-year fight with teachers over class sizes and composition has severely impacted public education in the province, while the Liberals used public money to fight their losing case.

“We’ve been seeing our schools and hospitals deteriorate for years under the Liberal government,” he said.

“For all the scandals and the harm this government has caused, they should be put in opposition to allow themselves the opportunity to reacquaint and reconnect with the regular people in the province. People are really fed up.”

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Independent candidate P. Anna Paddon said the need for more affording housing in Nanaimo-North Cowichan, better transportation routes, more access to post-secondary education and tariffs on B.C. lumber are among the top issues in the riding.

She said the lack of affordable housing in the riding has become a crisis, with many people fruitlessly looking for security and a place where they can live without fear of eviction.

Paddon said she would focus on bringing more provincial money into the riding for affordable housing, which would also bring more jobs into the community and lead to lower property taxes.

“There’s also fear of layoffs in the local forest industry with the tariffs the Americans are placing on our softwood lumber,” Paddon said.

“I think we should continue to look at expanding our markets for lumber.”

Paddon said issues around transportation are also being raised, and she’s advocating for a number of options to increase the riding’s accessibility to the Mainland and Victoria, including the construction of tunnels under the Strait of Georgia and through the Malahat.

“I’ve also heard concerns about people with special needs who are having trouble accessing post-secondary education,” she said.

“I’d ensure students with special needs have special-needs teachers available to help them complete their studies, and ensure there are more seats for them in our post-secondary schools.”

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The Liberals’ Alana DeLong said American tariffs on lumber has become a big concern in the riding.

“The forest industry is critical to the riding and the premier is doing a fantastic job dealing with this issue,” she said.

“Christy Clark has said any workers in B.C. that are laid off as a result of the tariffs will get employment insurance benefits quickly, and any government projects requiring lumber would buy early to give the suppliers some room to work with.”

DeLong said Clark’s push to ban the shipment of American thermal coal through British Columbia in response to the tariffs is “brilliant”.

“It hits right at the heart of Donald Trump’s strength; the American coal industry and its workers,” she said.

DeLong said another issue that constantly arises is the deplorable state of the provincially maintained Crofton Road.

“It’s very bad and in need of repair, and I’ve already been talking to the minister about it and I will make sure the work gets done if I’m elected,” she said.

DeLong said serious water issues are also spread across the riding.

She said an ongoing water project in Chemainus, which regularly has boil-water advisories, which would pull water directly from the aquifer year round, needs to be completed and she’d ensure that it would be done.

“Crofton needs more water security as well, and that requires more water stability in Cowichan Lake,” she said.

“As well, builders are not allowed to build above a certain height in Ladysmith and Cedar due to water issues, and those are issues I’d work hard on.”

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