Election issues: Rural communities

By Jill Sperling
May 5, 2017 - 3:37pm Updated: May 5, 2017 - 6:35pm

KAMLOOPS — With the major party leaders spending countless hours campaigning in the Lower Mainland and large urban centres it's easy for residents of rural communities to feel forgotten about. 

But candidates in the Kamloops ridings say that's not the case, each identifying a number of issues they plan to tackle if elected on May 9th. 

"What we need to be doing is encouraging a lot more innovation," said Kamloops-North Thompson Green Party candidate Dan Hines, "a lot more small and medium-size business, far more creative marriage between technology and resource and development."

"They have a difficult time keeping doctors in their communities long-term," said Kamloops-North Thompson NDP candidate Barb Nederpel, "so that's something that we need to be looking at, primary care there as well." 

"You have a good school in a community, people will want to live there," said Kamloops-South Thompson Communist Party candidate Beat Klossner. "You have to be able to make a living, there has to be daycare, there has to be services there."

The one issue that comes up time and time again is a loss of jobs in the forestry sector. 

"We've gone from 100,000 workers in the forest sector, we're just around a little more than 60,000 now," Hines said. "We've gone from all of these mills, and all of this production, now we've lost 100 mills."

The mills that remain are now threatened by a softwood lumber trade dispute with the U.S. With the livelihood of small town residents at stake, some candidates are suggesting a reconsideration of the forestry industry. 

"We need to add value to these raw products that we're exporting," said Kamloops-North Thompson Communist Party candidate Peter Kerek. "Clearly there's a demand for value added products because other places are buying raw logs and turning it into value-added products."

"We're looking to provide incentives for mills to add value-added jobs like wood manufacturing jobs," Nederpel said. "These are some ideas that can possibly keep communities like Clearwater thriving." 

Kamloops-South Thompson Liberal candidate Todd Stone says it's important to stand up for forest workers and B.C. Softwood lumber, as well as the province's mining industry. 

"I can tell you there's a lot of people who live in small town British Columbia who work in mines," Stone said, "so it means standing with mining families, and supporting moving forward with mining projects, or Site C or LNG."

Whether rural communities are struggling to keep their major industries afloat, or lack the services needed to attract new residents, the Kamloops candidates believe those concerns are important.

"It's not for Victoria to tell Clearwater or Barriere what's best for them," said Kamloops-North Thompson Liberal candidate Peter Milobar, "it's for them to tell us, and we try to help them accomplish that." 

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