Groans emanated throughout the packed house Wednesday when it was announced Conservative candidate Todd Doherty would not be attending the first Prince George-area all candidates forum.
More than 100 people jammed a College of New Caledonia lecture hall for the forum, which had was focused on economic issues. It was so packed that extra chairs were brought in and attendees were actually sitting behind the candidates on the stage.
It was announced at the meeting the Doherty had a meeting conflict and could not attend. According to his Facebook page, he was fixing campaign signs in the Cariboo and attending a meeting in Likely.
“We are being ignored,” said Liberal candidate Tracy Calogheros. “There have been policies and decisions being made in Ottawa that aren’t serving our region.”
She pointed to the seven per cent unemployment rate in the Cariboo region, higher than the national average, as an indicator the area is not being well represented.
She said the solution is to put people to work adding the Liberals’ “historic” infrastructure program will help in the immediate short term.
“That money is being targeted to be spent by communities in the manner they wish to use it,” she said.
NDP candidate Trent Derrick said Canada has become too dependent on oil and gas, calling the national economy a “one trick pony.”
“It becomes boom or bust,” he said.
He said the NDP plan is based on supporting small businesses, the middle class, and a strong manufacturing sector, which includes value-added initiatives in the forest industry.
Derrick also said the NDP have announced they would increase the corporate tax rate from the current 15 per cent to 17 per cent.
Independent Sheldon Clare said diversifying the economy is a “critical element” of what has to transpire.
“In terms of the economy, we’re feeling it in Cariboo-Prince George,” he said. “We are feeling it in British Columbia … Governments have traditionally put a lot of their eggs in one economic basket and we cannot continue to do that. What we need to do in this country is get away from continuing to support one sector heavily without other sectors being able to develop as well.”
Clare also took a jab at the other candidates saying he, as an independent, is the only one “not in a box,” and not having to respond to a party whip.
Green Party candidate Richard Jaques said that with six children, he understands “family economics,” pretty well.
“Things are pretty tight,” he said. “The $160 that Mr. Harper is throwing our way (referring to changes in the child tax credit) is not really helping.”
He said the No. 1 reason he is running is to get rid of Prime Minister Stephen Harper and the Conservatives.
Christian Heritage Party candidate Adam de Kroon stated that increasing value-added opportunities in Canada is a must, and pointed to raw log exports as an example.
“By us refining resources, here in Canada, we can create jobs here rather than out-sourcing our jobs to places like China,” he said.
de Kroon said between 2009 and 2013 B.C. went from exporting 2.5 million cubic metres of raw logs to 6.5 million cubic metres. That, he said, costs Canadians jobs.
Canadians go to the polls October 19.