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The hottest topic at all four debates was what could broadly be termed "the environment;" it beats out the economy, tax, industry and social inequality in terms of the numbers of questions asked by members of the public and led to the most impassioned comments from the audience.
These included independent power projects (IPPs) in the region and the impact on both the environment and BC Hydro, the proposed liquid natural gas (LNG) export terminal for Howe Sound, the Kinder Morgan pipeline from the Alberta oil sands to the B.C. coast, fish farms, and more.
Kinder Morgan — At two debates, Santos is asked about NDP leader Adrian Dix's change of position, coming out against the pipeline expansion carrying bitumen from northern Alberta to the Burrard Inlet, leading to an enormous increase in tanker traffic. In West Vancouver, she says she sees Dix's change as a "common sense approach... I don't look at that as a flip-flop event, but as a change of heart that the port of Vancouver should not be a major export oil port." When asked again in Pemberton about flip-flopping, she responds with a dig against the Liberals and their decision about the HST.
The other candidates also respond. Sturdy says that as far as the BC Liberals go, the question of pipelines and access to oil in this country, "we believe there should be a process and there should be a certainty. In the case of the Northern Gateway and Kinder Morgan pipelines there are five conditions to be met. It is important for investment that the investment community believes they are going to be treated fairly." He says the process will be open and transparent, unlike the NDP.
McLeod says both main parties flip-flop. "It's called policy on the fly... my position as your MLA would be put the constituents first... they oppose the Kinder Morgan pipeline and I would go with my constituents."
Warrington says the Green Party is running on a ticket of being highly principled and "the principle in this case is that we need to get off of oil."
Similarly to McLeod, Johnson says that he, too, has listened to voters and is against the pipelines.
IPPs — Questions about IPPs have been asked at every debate.
Johnson says more independents in the legislature would reverse the "awful trends" of run-of-river schemes. In terms of BC Hydro "buying overpriced power" from IPPs and being no longer profitable, Santos says the NDP will open already existing contracts to look at the financial, social and environmental aspects of each. Sturdy says the existing contracts "just deal with the provision of energy... it's really about the future of energy," including future costs to IPPs that would benefit BC Hydro. McLeod says BC Hydro has been mismanaged and would allow the company to "get back into business." Warrington called it a "gold rush mentality."
LNG on Howe Sound — Johnson comes out against the LNG plant proposal. McLeod does, too, and notes the proponent has a bad environmental record. Warrington says LNG is a fossil fuel, which goes against the Green Party thinking of being long term. Santos says the proposal would need to go through B.C.'s new environmental assessment process, which the NDP would create if they win on May 14. Sturdy notes that the application would go through current assessments and that the site is a brownfield site that would create badly needed tax revenue for the District of Squamish and use run-of-river power from a nearby project.
Fish farms – Sturdy supports the Cohen Commission Report but adds, "it's a complicated issue... we don't know what happens to salmon for much of their lives." Santos says she is committed to working with the Cohen Commission and notes her work with biologist Alexandra Morton on the Broughton Archipelago, where she says she removed sea lice from wild fry. Warrington says he worked in Port McNeil when the first discussions about fish farms came in 30 years ago, his concerns then about using Atlantic salmon have, he says, been confirmed. McLeod is against fish farms because of constituents' views, as is Johnson, who adds "no to GMOs."