The virtual All Candidates forum – Randi Amendt, the chamber manager and organizer, moderator Laura Blackwell of Lakes District News and candidates John Rustad, Dan Stuart, Anne Marie Sam and Margo Maley. (Lakes District News)

The virtual All Candidates forum – Randi Amendt, the chamber manager and organizer, moderator Laura Blackwell of Lakes District News and candidates John Rustad, Dan Stuart, Anne Marie Sam and Margo Maley. (Lakes District News)

Burns Lake & District Chamber of Commerce hosts an All Candidates forum

The forum was held virtually with questions from the community coming in live

  • Oct. 21, 2020 12:00 a.m.

Provincial election candidates for the Nechako Lakes riding got together virtually for an All Candidates forum organized by the Burns Lake and District Chamber of Commerce on Oct. 6.

The incumbent B.C. Liberal MLA John Rustad, NDP candidate Anne Marie Sam, Independent candidate Margo Maley, Christian Heritage Party of B.C.’s Dan Stuart and BC Libertarian Party’s Jon Rempel are the five candidates standing for elections in the riding.

Over the two hour long discussion, four of the five candidates who were in on the All Candidates forum, excluding Rempel, fielded a wide range of questions on topics ranging from lack of housing supply, homeless situation to what the candidates would do if elected, about the issue over the Office of Wet’suwet’en Memorandum of Understanding where the elected leaders have expressed concern about lack of transparency.

During the discussions on some of the hot-button issues like the moose harvest, tourism, Anne Marie Sam pointed out the things that the NDP was doing to help on the issue while John Rustad pointed out to the things that the NDP has not been doing or has been doing incorrectly according to him. While these discussions were not in the form of rebuttals and were civil, these were the only times when any candidates on the online platform indulged in something synonymous to a debate.

Anne Marie Sam indicated that the moose harvest was not something new and the licenses were given out only in the Caribou-protected areas and “there is misinformation given out about this that the NDP are allowing it to happen, we are actually reducing the numbers, and I hope to see this misinformation is stopped.”

John Rustad, who has been a strong voice against the moose harvest said, “Anne Marie Sam said that the NDP’s move of killing the cow calves was to support Caribou and to help Caribou; but there is no science to suggest this would help Caribou. If you look at the reduction of moose around the province, this needs to stop. It needed to stop years ago and it doesn’t matter who is in power. We need to have a true plan for wildlife across the province particularly for angulets and there has to be a predator program to allow for Caribou as well as Moose to recover.”

Maley stood in support of Rustad’s point of view on this and while Dan Stuart didn’t have anything to say to this issue, he did mention when it came to tourism and opening up of the economy that he believed it was time that people stopped being scared of the virus.

“This so-called pandemic is a scam. Yes, people have died but most of them had underlying issues and every year during the flu season, same thing happens, the only difference with this flu that we have, children haven’t been as affected as elderly. My thing is to help businesses get back to normal and we have a virus which is called fear and the government, media, everybody needs to get back on track and make people understand that it is not something that is going to march down the street and kill you. You might get sick, and you might not but everybody locks themselves at their home. So get rid of the fear and businesses can get back to business,” he said.

Maley, who is also all for opening up the economy, also stood very strongly for seeing the need for a revenue-sharing model as despite most resources like logging or mining done in this area, the area doesn’t get enough revenue for it. She also said that “for the resources that are leaving our communities, this government shouldn’t have a say — we have more than enough resources travelling out of our area down the highway and most of our revenue just goes in the coffers and we have no ability to access them.”

Amidst some tinkering with the new format of conducting and attending a forum online, the four candidates indulged in a civil discussion over several other questions posed by the community. The video of the forum is still available on the chamber’s Facebook page divided in Part 1 and Part 2.

Today is the last day for Advance Voting. The general voting will take place on Oct. 24. For Burns Lake and surrounding area will take place at Island Gospel Fellowship, Francois Lake Community Hall, Grassy Plains Hall, Trout Creek Community Hall and Decker Lake Elementary School. For Granisle, the general voting will take place at the Granisle Sr. Community Centre on 19 Champman St. and two other locations for people living in Topley or between Topley and Burns Lake are at the Rose Lake Hall and Topley Community Hall.

Priyanka Ketkar
Multimedia journalist

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