In the lead up to the provincial election on October 24, Q101 will be posting several articles highlighting the local candidates’ thoughts on issues facing Merritt, Fraser-Nicola, and the province.
The five confirmed candidates in the riding are Liberal Incumbent Jackie Tegart, NDP Aaron Sumexheltza, Green Jonah Timms, and Independents Mike Bhangu, and Dennis Adamson.
Today, the five candidates were asked about rural development
In particular, the candidates were asked about the how government should support rural communities and the discontinued rural dividend grant.
*Candidates are listed in alphabetical order
Dennis Adamson, Independent
When the province did that (reallocated the rural dividend grant), it affected my area because we had plans to do some infrastructure work with that money and the NDP decided to take it away and give it to the people that had been laid off in the forestry industry.
I believe it's important to help the people that were out of work to transition or find a new way to make money. But at the same time, you don’t take away an existing program where rural and small BC are depending on that money.
I think we need to support these projects but not take away what’s already there.
Mike Bhangu, Independent
Being that constant reminder that they are not doing enough for small communities, not at all, they’ve dropped the ball.
They need to be reminded every day, that the lower mainland is wonderful, it's great to give them all the resources they require to grow. But what about us, they seem to forget about us, until of course, an election comes around.
I will be that constant reminder.
Aaron Sumexheltza, NDP
John Horgan and the Government prior to the election did come out with their economic plan. And I know that once the election is over that a John Horgan government will continue to focus on supporting local businesses and small businesses.
Of course, the rural dividend grant program is something that the previous government did focus on and I’m confident that moving towards another four-year term that a Horgan government will ensure that we support local businesses. One example might be focusing on infrastructure projects.
Jackie Tegart, Liberal (Incumbent)
I was fortunate enough just before the election was called to be given the critic's role of regional economic development and small business. Those are critical areas for the recovery in Fraser-Nicola.
We are in the process of looking at opening up and rediscovering the Fraser Canyon. We know that day trips out of Vancouver would be incredibly supported.
Forestry is incredibly important in the riding. The NDP has taxed our forest industry, almost out of business. Hearing from the forest industry that we are the highest cost through taxes makes us realize how important government decisions are.
So, when we look at how do we sustain a healthy recovery, and a healthy economy, rural development is going to be extremely important.
Jonah Timms, Green
I think that bringing back that fund (Rural Dividend Grant) is the first step. A lot of non-profits in rural communities depending on that funding to continue their programming and unfortunately that funding got cut and so the programs weren’t able to happen.
Rural communities are great places to grow up, but my experience is that we have a tough time attracting young families to come out here and stay out here because there aren’t many jobs or housing is either non-existent or rent is too high. We need to start working on ways to create affordable housing in rural communities and get some really good high paying jobs that young people want to do when they move out of the city.
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