Following is a 2-part question…
How important do you believe the blue economy — aquaculture — is to our future? And what is your plan to develop it?
Following is a 2-part question… from the BC Salmon Farmers Association
Do you support salmon aquaculture in B.C.? How do your views align with your party and where do they diverge?
I have been consistent with my position and the NDPs position for as long as I’ve served as MP. I do support aquaculture in BC, but it must be done in such a way that there is no risk to wild salmon and to our marine environment. I have advocated openly since 2015 to work with the industry to transition salmon farming to closed containment. I respect the decision to phase out the open pen sites in the Discovery Islands, which is the same position taken by all of the major parties.
Follow up to Rachel Blaney: You’ve publicly supported ending ocean salmon aquaculture by 2025, what do you say to the thousands of people in your riding who will lose their jobs and their businesses within the next three years if this does take effect?
I have long been advocating for a transition to closed containment that would harness our expertise and keep good jobs in our communities. Since the Discovery Island decision was announced I have spoken with Minister Jordan and Parliamentary Secretary Terry Beech on numerous occasions to stress the importance and urgency for a plan to support affected workers and businesses in our riding. We’re still waiting on that plan, and that is simply not good enough from the Liberal government.
Minister Bernadette Jordan has been quoted saying the removal of salmon farms in the Discovery Islands by June 2022 was not based on science, but rather social licence. Former Wei Wai Kai Chief Assu stated he felt “railroaded” by the decision. If elected how do you plan on supporting First Nations who sign agreements for ocean pens in their territory?
Respecting rights and title must be central to all decisions on the use of our natural resources. That means working with First Nations when they want to develop opportunities in their territories, as well as respecting them when they want those territories protected. I have always fought for this and will continue to do so.
Land-based closed containment has been suggested by some as a viable transition for salmon aquaculture in B.C. by 2025, however many studies confirm land-based by 2025 will not only increase carbon emissions, but will remove the entire industry out of B.C. What do you think a viable and responsible transition looks like?
There are very promising and exciting innovations in this industry, in many cases being led by the same corporations that are operating open pen farms in our region. We have a good land base, expertise, ocean water, and clean hydroelectricity. I believe if there was will and the right incentives, it could be possible to do it here and do it well. I will continue to advocate for that.
How will you ensure the health and viability of salmon populations in our oceans?
Wild salmon are a cornerstone for our ecology, our economy, and our culture here. Ensuring healthy wild salmon runs has to be a top priority for all of us. We would fully implement the recommendations of the Cohen Commission, and work with the province and First Nations to support a transition to closed containment salmon farming. We would also invest heavily in habitat restoration and in the Indigenous Guardians Program.
How will you ensure Indigenous Peoples have equitable access to society?
This question could be a full forum in itself, but I’ll try to address it with a few points. We would implement the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous People and all 94 calls to action from the Truth and Reconciliation Commission. We would appoint a special prosecutor to pursue the crimes of the residential school system and require that churches turn over all records. We would stop taking Indigenous children to court and instead fully implement the Canadian Human Rights Tribunal orders on equal funding for child welfare. We would also fully implement Jordan’s Principle, working with the provinces to ensure equitable access to health services and educational supports. And we would work to end systemic racism against Indigenous people in the justice system, including working with Indigenous communities to develop a First Nations justice and policing strategy. Finally we’d make sure First Nations, Inuit and Metis leadership are treated as true nation-to-nation partners and included authentically in decision making on how we develop our economy and our resources going forward.
Following is a 2-part question…
Would you agree the relationship between the Canadian justice system and racial minorities is fractured? What policies can be put in place to repair this?
In all my many conversations with police in our communities and at the national level, the issue of trust is always brought up. For too many racialized Canadians, the trust is not there. Improving police accountability would be a benefit to all of us, including our police. We want to see a proper independent civilian oversight of the RCMP and a federal use-of-force standard. And we would ensure all officers receive thorough and ongoing de-escalation and cross-cultural training throughout their career. We’d also invest in non-police interventions like mental health and addiction supports so police resources can be focused on the things they are trained to do.
The backlog in Canada courts is months and in some cases years – what is your plan to re-align the system to ensure timely access?
A New Democrat government would restore the independence of the judiciary by reducing reliance on mandatory minimums and allow trial judges to use their well-earned and respected judgement. We would encourage the use of community-based restorative justice approaches where appropriate and expunge criminal records for all Canadians convicted of minor cannabis possession from before it was legalized. And we would increase federal funding to legal aid so that our justice system is more equitable for all Canadians.
Do you support protecting old-growth forests in B.C.?
Forestry policy is provincial jurisdiction, not federal. However, the federal government can and should do more to support Indigenous led forest stewardship practices. We can and should have a sustainable and beneficial forestry industry in our region, but we need to be getting more economic benefit out of what we harvest than what has been the case in recent history. We would invest in innovation and support value-added Canadian wood products so that we don’t have to harvest the last of our old-growth in order to keep people working in this important industry here.
What is your plan going forward to balance protection with Indigenous land rights?
Legally and morally, respecting rights and title must come first.
In light of the consistent battles with the USA regarding Soft Wood Lumber, what is the best way forward to create a sustainable forest industry in BC?
The softwood lumber agreement expired in 2015 and the Liberal government has failed to reach a new agreement. This time period has now crossed three US presidencies and a lengthy renegotiation of NAFTA. This is an important issue for BC and the federal government needs to make it a priority.
The world is facing growing supply chain issues and rising inflation. What steps will you take for the impact on Canada to be minimal?
The pandemic has shown us that we clearly need to expand critical domestic manufacturing capacity and supply chain infrastructure. We would develop comprehensive industrial strategies to do this.
What action will you take to ensure the people of North Island – Powell River are included in the economic recovery efforts?
In my motion Principles for a Sustainable and Equitable Future I called on all recovery spending to be seen through a lens of sustainability and equity to rural and remote parts of the country who have historically been resource based. Regions like ours have built the wealth of this country and as we move to the economies of the future we have to be included and prioritized. I’m pleased that an office for the new PacificCan agency will be located in Campbell River. That will help ensure our priorities are not forgotten by the federal government.
The Canadian Tax system has become increasingly complex and seemingly unfair to most. What actions will you take to reduce the complexity and increase fairness? How will you ensure everyone pays their fair share?
More new tax credits (which is always the Conservative response) is not the answer. That’s what has resulted in our complex and unfair system. We have a whole package of tax fairness proposals to make sure that the ultra-rich pay their fair share and we can all recover evenly from the pandemic. For example, increasing capital gains inclusion rate to 75%, and the top marginal tax rate by two points, a luxury tax on things like yachts and jets, and a wealth tax on the very richest multi-millionaires. We’d also roll back the Conservatives’ corporate tax cut to 2010 levels and make internet giants like Facebook and Amazon pay just like every other company that operates in Canada.
How well has the federal government handled the COVID-19 pandemic?
There have certainly been mistakes, but for the most part we’ve done okay. What I know is that the government response would have been much more inadequate without the work of NDP MPs who pushed the Liberal government to do better for Canadians. We doubled the initial CERB offering from $1000 to $2000 and from 16 weeks to 28 weeks, we increased the wage subsidy to keep businesses open and people employed from 10% to 75% and we made sure there was at least something available for seniors, students and people with disabilities.
Political and social debate in our society has become fractious, contentious and downright uncivil, why do you think this has happened? And what role do our politicians play in resolving it?
The pandemic has definitely put a strain on everyone and I think we’re all seeing it in interactions in many arenas. Politics can always be contentious so it’s an obvious area where this frustration can bubble over. I do also think that while social media is a useful tool, the lack of human connection allows for the worst elements to come to the surface more readily. What we can do as politicians is to reject that. To not use division as a tool to score points. To be always conscious that we are debating the ideas and not the people speaking opposite. I’m proud that we are continuing to run a positive campaign that speaks to what we’ve done and where we need to go.
How well do you think people understand the Canadian political system? What would you do to improve that understanding?
People’s understanding varies depending on their interest. It’s not a simple system so I don’t blame anyone for not knowing their MPs from their MLAs or how First-Past-the-Post works (or doesn’t work). In my time as MP often it has been young people who have the best questions and the most interest in how our system works. There are many excellent teachers who teach this and I’ve been fortunate to join several classes in discussions. The campaign to lower the voting age to 16 makes some very compelling points about the benefits of engaging in electoral politics while in high school.
What is your opinion of the current state of gun control in Canada? What would you change?
We need to ensure that the measures we take to reduce gun violence are actually effective at doing that rather than just adding layers of bureaucracy to responsible gun owners. We also need to provide the necessary resources for border security to keep guns from flowing over the border.