Election candidates field the questions at forum

Chamber of Commerce hosted forum for business community. See Friday's Townsman for coverage of JCI forum Wednesday night.

On Wednesday, May 1, the public had a chance to field their questions to local candidates for MLA at two all-candidates forums. The first, held by the Cranbrook and District Chamber of Commerce, brought forth questions from the business community. The second forum was hosted by JCI Kootenays and took questions from the general public. The latter will be covered in Friday’s Townsman.

At the Chamber of Commerce all-candidates forum, Bill Bennett for the B.C. Liberals and Norma Blissett for the B.C. NDP answered questions submitted by the business community.

The candidates received the questions a week in advance, so had some time to think about their answers.

Bennett talked about his background running a tourism business, which he said made him qualified to represent the business community.

Blissett said while she doesn’t have the same business background, she is prepared to listen to the local  businesses to solve their issues.

On party platforms, Bennett said that the difference between his party and the B.C. NDP is the latter tends to focus more on the environment and social issues, while the B.C. Liberals focus more on the economy. He said the economy is in good shape and is the envy of many other provinces.

Blissett noted that while life is good in B.C. for the top tier of earners, not enough is being done for low income earners, who once pulled up, could put more money back into the economy.

On the subject of challenges to the business community Bennett said the government needs to invest in skills training, nurturing consumer confidence and making sure local government doesn’t inhibit local businesses.

Blissett said that it is money leaving the area, a lack of skills training and antiquated liquor laws are causing the most problems. She said the B.C NDP plan to address those issues.

Blissett said natural resource development is the foundation of the B.C. economy, but shouldn’t be limited to liquid natural gas (LNG).

“We know there are opportunities in liquid natural gas, as well as mining, forestry and agricultural, but we think the best way to face the future of economic growth is to have a diversified economy, because our resource industries are dependent on foreign markets,” she said, adding that some of those things are beyond the province’s control.

She said it’s better to invest in a variety of resources.

Bennett said the LNG is a “game-changer,” though added that other industries like mining are bigger for the local area.

“The impact (of LNG) on our province will be in the hundreds of billions of dollars,” he said, pointing at Alberta and Saskatchewan that have had success with LNG. “We’re going to have to work with these companies and figure out how we can do this in an environmentally responsible way, generate these jobs and generate these jobs revenues.”