FORT ST. JOHN, B.C. – With the election just around the corner, Energeticcity.ca will be profiling each candidate during the week of May 1. Each candidate has been asked 10 questions that are related to the North Peace.
Independent candidate Rob Fraser gave the following responses to the questions presented to him.
- Should the Site C project be sent to the BC Utilities Commission for review?
Answer: No not now. It should have been reviewed by the BCUC before the original decision to build Site C for the following reasons. It would have better informed the government decision whether or not to build in the first place by researching the total cost and how to pay for the project; whether the power was needed now or during the life of the project, and would have given the public an opportunity to comment. The government did not request a review before the original decision however and the courts have agreed that they did not have to. I do not think it serves our region well to deny that fact. As mayor and potentially as MLA I think it’s my job to get the best possible benefits from the project and make sure this process never happens again. It’s time to move on. As MLA, I will continue to work on behalf our residents on the Site C Community Liaison Committee.
- How do you envision strengthening the relationship with First Nations?
Answer: The First Nations communities will be critical in everything we do in our region moving forward. It is so important that we develop strong relationships. From environmental discussions to community opportunities through to opportunities to work together for our economy, our indigenous neighbours have some great ideas and a will to build strong bonds. Indigenous cultures need to be recognized as a key part of our northern heritage. As MLA, I will reach out to the First Nations to meet with them on their terms while recognizing the need for transparency and cooperation for the larger combined community that I will represent. Together we are strong; divided we are powerless.
- Is the ‘Fair Share’ agreement the best deal?
Answer: I have been involved in various capacities with the evolution of the Fair Share agreement from the beginning. I was involved with the most recent negotiations and was very vocal about the fact that the Peace River Agreement is not the best deal. The deal is concluded and the region has accepted it however it has deficiencies. The current Peace River Agreement has been delinked from the growth of the industry that the communities service. Increased industry often equates to increased service costs and the deal does not recognize that. Secondly, the Fair Share Agreement had a 15 year term and provided certainty for communities. The new Peace River Agreement is not certain. Rather than having a 20 year term, it is divided into 20- 1 year terms. It has to be applied for every year and the government has the potential to deny it. As the only candidate and MLA with this experience, I will monitor the application process to ensure our communities are being treated fairly.
- How do you think the Province should go about in getting the best deal when it comes to the Softwood Lumber dispute?
Answer: The province needs to ensure that it has its own Forest policy house in order. There is some dispute within the province that the large forest companies are indeed being subsidized by our government. The policy that allows freight costs to be removed from the stumpage paid to the government is an example of subsidies given to the large forest products companies. Companies do not have to mill the wood in the communities where it is harvested anymore and can close those mills without penalties. If a mill is closed for more than 5 years, the forest company can apply to have the wood value assessment moved to the next closest mill in production. At that point the freight costs for delivering the wood to that next closest mill can be applied against the stumpage and depending on the distances hauled, the stumpage can be reduced to the minimum level. This not only disadvantages small remote communities but also encourages forest companies to build super mills and close smaller mills. The Americans are screaming that our forest companies are being subsidized and they may be right. Let’s understand what is happening in our own back yards in order to prove that our forest companies are fairly competing.
- The Clark government said that LNG would be up and running by now and since it hasn’t, do you see LNG starting up in the next four years?
Answer: I am very optimistic about the future of our LNG industry. I believe we have the ability and public support to develop our world class natural gas resource safely and efficiently with due course given to our environment and our communities. I am unsure if it will happen in the next 4 years. There are many market uncertainties that affect the decision to build in Canada. I believe we can get to “Yes” in LNG faster if the provincial government were to put their money where their mouth is, so to speak. The province can encourage the development of this industry by investing in the infrastructure of the region where the natural gas comes from. By improving the transportation networks, working with local governments on planning and community infrastructure, training workers and creating policies to understand cumulative impacts the province can show that they are very serious about LNG production. This would send a favourable message to the investors that we are open for responsible resource development. I have been working with the Taylor council and the NEBC Coalition of Resource Municipalities to further advance the cause of our natural gas industry. As MLA, I will continue the work with these groups.
- The Taylor Bridge is a key part of infrastructure that residents are calling on to be replaced. What are your plans for the bridge?
Answer: The Taylor Bridge is a critical piece of transportation infrastructure that is on its last legs. The continuous routine and emergency repairs to the surface of the bridge prove it is either not designed for the numbers and types of loads being hauled across it or it is just plain wearing out. Or maybe both. To ensure the smooth year round flow of products through the region, the delays caused by the repair and maintenance of this bridge must be reduced if not eliminated. There needs to be 4 lanes across the Peace River to adequately move the volumes of traffic to and from the north. A new 2 lane bridge could be built on the upstream side of the old bridge. Once this bridge is in service, the old bridge can be upgraded with a new surface and substructure if required to support a new surface. This could probably be done for less than the combined PST and GST amounts being spent on the new Massey Bridge in the lower mainland designed to replace the Massey Tunnel. 12 percent of 3.5Billion dollars would likely do it. The Taylor council has been asking the provincial government for many years about starting the process to find a solution. I will continue that effort as MLA.
- Communities are facing shortages in the Peace when it comes to doctors. What would your plan be to get recruitment up and get more doctors here?
Answer: I know this problem too well. The troubles we have been having in Taylor with our medical clinic are partially due to the capacity of our doctors in the region. The doctors in local practices are working hard to service the region but they need assistance. This problem is not only confined to doctors but professionals of all types. It is a complicated problem to deal with. I intend to strike an MLA advisory committee for health care to work on this and other health related issues. The committee will work on recruitment and retention of doctors and medical professionals. I want to discuss local training opportunities, tuition reduction, graduated loan interest forgiveness, affordable housing for new doctors and professionals while they are paying off student loans and other ideas that committee members may have. I will also work with local communities to ensure we are creating vibrant sustainable community programs with art, culture and heritage opportunities that will assist with retention of these professionals and other workers and families as well.
- What is your long-term plan for the regional economy?
Answer: In a word: Diversification. Our region is rife with opportunity. There are opportunities in Agriculture, Construction, Energy,Forestry, Smaller local LNG, Mining Exploration, Oil and Gas Infrastructure, Petrochemicals and more. Exploring investments and markets in these industries is key to smoothing out the cyclical nature of our resource economy. The Northern Rockies Regional Municipality is in dire need of economic revitalization. When elected I will establish a Fort Nelson region economic task force to bring together interested constituents with the local government, First Nation communities, industry and the Chamber of Commerce to research and develop a common vision for the local economy. In the short term, forestry will be the focus. I will also work with whoever forms the government to consider a Ministry for Northern Development and Environmental Affairs. My vision is for this ministry to focus on the science and opportunities for the northern issues of responsible resource development including cumulative effects to the environment, our communities and indigenous/First Nation’s population.
- With the announcement that the Federal Government is aiming to have marijuana legalized by July 1, 2018, what would you like to see the Province of B.C. do in terms of Provincial guidelines/regulation?
Answer: First and foremost is the question of public safety. The Province must ensure that there is adequate regulation to ensure the safety of our residents. It starts with guidelines for the safe production and quality control over the product. Next, the security of transportation, processing and marketing of cannabis to ensure organized crime is eliminated from the industry. Marijuana must not be sold in BC until there is adequate roadside and workplace impairment testing equipment and protocols in place to protect the public and workers from impaired drivers and workers. As with any substance that can be abused and create addictions, there needs to be social assistance programs that assist with individuals who find themselves having difficulties with addiction. Finally, a taxation structure will need to be established to pay for all of the above as well as criminal penalties that reflect abuses of the legislation.
- What are your thoughts on the environmental impacts of fracking?
Answer: The process of fracturing petroleum formations to increase the flow is a misunderstood and maligned part of our petroleum industry. The Canadian Petroleum industry has invested heavily in the development of the technology to ensure it is safe for workers and the environment. If the technology is used appropriately, its impacts on the environment are reduced to the water consumption requirements to fracture the rock formations and the carbon emissions from the various pieces of surface equipment used to perform the fracturing process. British Columbia has world class regulatory requirements for drilling and downhole completions. The Oil and Gas Commission is respected around the world for its proactive regulatory approach and enforcement guidelines. While there can be instances of inappropriate procedure being followed, it is the exception rather than the rule in BC. Fracking has received a bad name from under regulated jurisdictions where rules either did not exist or best practices were neither followed nor enforced.
The last candidate to be featured tomorrow will be Independent candidate Jeff Richert.