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BC Liberal Leadership hopefuls address issues at Northern BC debate

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The BC Liberal Leadership debate wrapped up Saturday afternoon in Prince George and it wasn’t disappointing.

All six candidates stood in front of a full house and touched on various topics from forestry, mining and energy, relationship with First Nations, and the opioid crisis.

One candidate seemed to be hammered by the others when candidates had their chance to ask each other questions, and that was former conservative MP and Mayor of Surrey Dianne Watts.

Michael Lee asked her if she would be a good leader after her previous experience in budgeting when she priced out the total cost of a new city hall at $97 million and after cost delays and overruns the whole project totaled $138 million.

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Watts defended by saying they decided to put in a daycare and extra parking so they would have a revenue generating opportunity to pay the debt down.

Another question from Andrew Wilkinson to Watts focused on the crime rate in Surrey and how the rate of crime average was the same in the city as it was in Vancouver, but when Watts stepped down that number jumped 27%, higher than the provincial average.

Candidates sitting at BC Liberal Leadership Debate| By Jeff Slack

Watts responded by saying the population rate increases by 800 to 1,500 a month and its mostly youth that get involved with gangs.

she also added that those numbers actually went down, but couldn’t elaborate more because her mic was cut off.

On the topic of more industries moving outside of Victoria and into more northern communities, Andrew Wilkinson challenged Michael De Jong on his decision to try and make this happen now.

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“Back in 2002 I was a lonely civil servant and there was an idea out there to move the energy ministry to Fort St. John and the forest ministry to Prince George and a few others would be moved around. Mostly to get people out of Victoria and in touch with the communities and I guess my obvious question is, Mike De Jong, you were the forest minister so why didn’t it happen back then?”

Michael De Jong Responding to Challenge at BC Liberal Leadership Debate| by Jeff Slack

De Jong responded by saying he started the process of moving industries out of Victoria 13 years ago and promised to continue to make that happen if he was elected premier.

Todd Stone made remarks on the subject on strengthening the relationship between the liberals and the First Nations Communities saying they want the same thing as everyone else.

“They want their kids to grow up and embrace opportunity. They want there to be jobs for their families. They want health care and education and critical social services to be available when they need it. That’s the same thing all of us want.”

Stone added to be able to make job creating project, which generate the resources to invest in health care and education, you need someone with experience in working with First Nations.

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The last segment was closing remarks from all candidates who all expressed they have plans and ideas aimed on taking back the province from the NDP

The next time the leadership hopefuls meet for their third debate will be in Nanaimo on November 19th.

– with files from Jeff Slack, My PG Now

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