Cariboo – Prince George Leadership Q&A #2 – Natural Resources and Religious Freedom

Round #2 of the 2015 Cariboo – Prince George discussion with our local candidates!  Replies are presented in the order in which they were received.

 

Question 1 – What are your thoughts about large-scale natural resource development projects (LNG, etc), and how do you prioritize the relevant social, cultural, and economic factors involved?

 

Tracy CalogherosTracy Calogheros – Canada is a largely resource based economy.  Gaining access to those resources and getting them to market efficiently has historically been central to the fiscal development of our country.  Utilizing our resources also means preserving them and sharing them. Significant dollars are brought into our region by visitors traveling here to experience those resources in the form of wilderness, pristine rivers and lakes, and wildlife.

Our contemporary businesses are very young in comparison to the geologic timespan that humans have been living, working, and using resources on this land.  We have physical evidence of human habitation going back thousands of years at the confluence of the Fraser and Nechako Rivers.  The earliest new arrivals to the region would not have survived without the experience and friendship from the resident First Nations.  If we are to continue to thrive on this land, we need to rekindle that friendship, rebuild that trust, and begin to work together again.

We live in a world where experience has made clear the drawbacks of considering only a singular “bottom line.”  Large-scale LNG projects are a viable “bridge” for a society working towards a cleaner future.  Natural gas is not perfect, but it is better than conventional oil.  We cannot proceed with further development in the absence of scientific fact and community will.  With what we know today, it is simply not reasonable to claim that we cannot both utilize our resources AND protect our cultural and environmental assets.

I maintain that all Canadians want a strong Canada, fiscally, environmentally, and socially; that “triple bottom line” is how we must measure our success.  We will reach that balance with science, with true relationships, and with trust.  I believe we can work together to find the best possible uses for our land, our resources, and our people.

 

Sheldon ClareSheldon Clare – The statistics are very clear – pipelines are the safest way to transport oil and gas by a large margin. In fact the biggest issue when it comes to pipelines is which company is building them. If a pipeline is to be built, I personally believe the contract should be awarded to the company with the best safety record.

The larger issue of LNG and the shipment of raw bitumen is more complicated.

Looking at the global market, BC is not nearly the LNG player it touts itself as. Many other countries have already developed LNG shipment capabilities, and they are already flooding the market in East Asia. It is likely too late for BC to get any meaningful part of these profits, especially considering the risk to our environment.

In regards to shipping raw bitumen, I personally have many doubts. I hunt and fish with my daughters in the very areas where the proposed Northern Gateway Pipeline will be built, and I do not believe that this project can be properly engineered at a reasonable cost.

Furthermore, the idea of shipping raw resources irks me. I understand that raw bitumen lasts longer than refined oil. But I also don’t want to pay into another country’s economy for a refined product that started out under our feet.

The oil was extracted locally – it makes sense to refine it locally and keep those jobs within our borders.

And finally, I believe we need to redirect our economy’s emphasis, so more value is added before we ship our products and the education needed for high skilled jobs is made affordable. If we invest in people, and focus on growing our local economy first, I believe Cariboo-Prince George’s future will be very bright.

 

Adam De KroonAdam De Kroon – In general I support such large-scale projects. Northern BC has abundant natural resources so further development is one way of continuing to ensure there will be jobs in our communities. There are some exceptions of course. For example I am against projects that treat the environment recklessly, it is entirely possible to develop natural resources with methods that keep our environment in good shape for future generations.

 

Todd DohertyTodd Doherty – If elected, my priority is to ensure that our region has a strong economy. I understand that in a country rich in natural resources, tens of thousands of British Columbians and even more Canadians across Canada are employed in the mining and energy sectors. In fact, it employs roughly 1.8 million Canadians, many in quality skilled labour jobs. Finally, resource development generates $30 billion annually in government revenue, which helps to pay for affordable healthcare and our other social programs.

That said, we also understand that we are stewards of Canada’s rich natural heritage, and that a healthy environment and a strong economy go hand in hand. We have taken steps to boost Canada’s clean energy sector by investing billions in clean energy initiatives, strengthening Canada’s record on conservation, and delivering good jobs for Canadians for today and in the future. Our plan for responsible resource development strikes the right balance between unleashing the potential of our resources to create high-quality jobs, while ensuring safety and environmental protection.

Pipelines are proven to be the safest, most environmentally friendly and most efficient way to transport oil and natural gas. Through the Pipeline Safety Act, our Conservative Government has strengthened Canada’s world-class pipeline safety system. The bill:

  • Introduces absolute liability for all National Energy Board (NEB) Regulated pipelines
  • Provides the NEB with authority to order reimbursement of any cleanup costs incurred by governments, communities or individuals
  • Provides the NEB authority and resources to assume control of incident response if a company is unwilling to do so

Developing these resources in a responsible manner will be essential, and ensuring the jobs created are accessible to people in our region will be my top priority.

 

Question 2 – How will you ensure that all Canadians will have freedom of expression in regard to their religious beliefs without being accused of hatred or fearmongering?

 

Tracy CalogherosTracy Calogheros – Personal rights and individual freedoms are inalienable rights insofar as they do not harm anyone else.  Justin Trudeau often says that Canada is stronger BECAUSE of our differences, not in SPITE of them, and I completely agree.  There are new ideas, expertise, compassion, and support in all parts of Canadian Society, irrespective of religious, political, or cultural affiliation.

Freedom of expression is one of the hallmarks of a democratic society, one that I passionately believe in.  If people are afraid to speak to each other or to our leaders, or afraid to express a differing opinion, we are all diminished.  When our citizens are stifled, we as a collective lose the vibrancy that differentiates our society from those mired in ideology or under dictatorship.

Open, transparent, accessible, and responsive government; representation in Ottawa that reflects our region; and a voice for individuals in local conversations that will inform national policy development are the best safeguards for such freedoms.

 

Sheldon ClareSheldon Clare – Many people have forgotten where our core freedoms come from: the right to express, associate, and congregate freely was established in Canada in order to protect religious minorities and allow for pluralism. Even those who call themselves atheist or secular today have the religious founders of our country to thank for being allowed to express their opinions.

In regards to religious expression in Canada, I believe there are two distinct issues. The first is that of private belief publically expressed, and the second is private belief’s effect on public policy.

I believe that people should be allowed to express their religious or private beliefs publicly, but as a historian and a community leader, I’m not so naive as to believe all strongly held beliefs will co-exist without friction!

Our Charter of Rights and Freedoms specifically declares that rights can only be limited in such a way that can be “demonstrably justified in a free and democratic society.” My interpretation of this is simple: say whatever you like, but threats against the lives and property of others will not be tolerated – regardless of your own background or position in society.

In regards to religious or private beliefs’ affect on public policy, I would argue that Members of Parliament must be allowed to vote their conscience.

We have seen in the last few years that the NDP, the Liberals, and Conservatives have all become openly or covertly hostile to discussing complex moral issues in Parliament. Both the NDP and the Liberals have policies that require MP’s to vote pro-choice or not at all, and the Conservatives actions toward similar topics are “free votes” in name only.

If elected, I promise my constituents to vote on complex moral issues the same way I would vote on complex legislation: with a critical mind, guided by my conscience as well [300 word limit reached]

 

Adam De KroonAdam De Kroon – I would oppose legislation that threatens freedom of expression, including religious expression (both in and outside of church). I believe that freedom of speech and expression is an essential right that all Canadians must have. I oppose all “hate speech” type legislation and support modifications to the criminal code to ensure freedom of speech is protected.

 

Todd DohertyTodd Doherty – Our Conservative government has already taken positive steps towards ensuring that people are free to express their beliefs without being accused of hatred or fearmongering, but ensuring that those that do incite fear and hatred aren’t able to continue spreading it.

In 2011, we stepped in and repealed section 13.1 of the Canadian Human Rights Code, which was being used excessively to punish Canadians who made innocent comments online and were handed down fines for it. While the section was well intentioned, it was applied so broadly that it failed to fulfill its original objective and unnecessarily curbed free speech. It was unanimously repealed by all the parties.

In addition, our Conservative Government established the Office for Religious Freedom in 2013 to advocate for greater religious freedoms and tolerance across the world, and to help protect religious minorities under threat. Over 75% of the world’s population lives in countries where religious freedoms are highly restricted.

With the threat of ISIS, this Office’s role has only been proven to be needed even more. ISIS has targeted religious minorities in the past, and without a regional champion these minorities are left without a voice. This is why a re-elected Conservative Government would invest $9 million in the Office of Religious Freedom to support persecuted religious minorities in the Middle East. The program would seek to build on the Office’s highly successful Religious Freedom Fund to work with organizations operating in the region to protect places of worship and the retention of religious artifacts that are under threat of destruction by ISIS.

Hate speech has no place in our society, but we cannot only stand up for freedom at home. We also have to ensure that all freedoms, including religious freedoms, are respected across the world.

 

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