Election 2015: Candidates stake positions on budgets, Northern Gateway

Potential Skeena-Bulkley Valley MPs stake out positions that would affect local and national economies ahead of Sept. 30's Smithers debate.

With one week to go until the All Candidates Forum at Della Herman Theatre in Smithers, potential Skeena-Bulkley Valley MPs have staked out more positions that would affect the local and national economies.

Last week, before the second leaders’ debate Thursday, it was announced that the Conservative government showed a surplus for last year — one year earlier than promised.

The NDP have promised a balanced budget if elected, and came out last week with a costing framework for their promises.

Not to be left out, the Liberals reiterated their position against the Enbridge Northern Gateway oil pipeline that would run south of the Bulkley Valley to Kitimat. They also announced that they support formalizing a moratorium on oil tanker traffic along B.C.’s north coast.

Liberal candidate Brad Layton said his party is committed to working closer with the province and First Nations on natural resource projects.

“We’ll develop plans that will not only make use of our marine resources, but give coastal communities much more say in the management of the resources,” said Layton.

Liberal leader Justin Trudeau made the tanker ban announcement at the same time as pledging to reinstate $40 million cut from the ocean science and monitoring program at the Department of Fisheries and Oceans.

NDP incumbent candidate Nathan Cullen proposed a bill in Parliament to ban north coast tanker traffic last year.

“I guess imitation is the best form of flattery. I’ve been working on this for almost a decade now,” said Cullen.

“You have to put some water in that wine, though. Forty years ago Trudeau’s father allegedly put a moratorium in but never wrote it into law. So their track record as a party has been a bit dodgy.”

The Conservatives want an oil pipeline to the west coast to ship Alberta oil to markets across the Pacific Ocean. The Conservative government’s 2014-15 budget was buoyed by oil revenue, resulting in a $1.9 billion surplus.

Cullen’s NDP recently released an outline of how it planned to pay for big money promises, including its platform cornerstone of $15 a day child care.

Cullen said reports that the NDP would use employment insurance money to balance the books was inaccurate.

“It’s not true, we have actually been running our costing. And by the way, we are the only party that has costed our budget so far. So for all the criticism we’re getting from the Liberals and Conservatives — we’ve shown you our hand — can’t wait to see theirs,” said Cullen.

That oil revenue has slowed down considerably since the crash in oil prices earlier this year, making balancing this year’s budget and future budgets a lot harder. The NDP used Finance Department numbers in their framework, numbers that included higher oil prices.

“Obviously oil is a factor but not the only one. Consumer spending goes up, household debt changes — there’s a domino effect by oil shifting its price around,” explained Cullen.

“You actually do need an entire finance department to take all those variables in; and the danger in going either way and saying we think the economy will pick up or we think that oil will hit deeper than they’re estimating is you have to take that one assumption and run it across the entire economy.”

Layton said the Liberals are sticking to their plan of running three years of $10 billion deficits to boost an economy just out of its second recession in seven years with infrastructure spending.

“If the federal government isn’t the one to do it, the only way it’s going to be done is increased taxes at the municipal level,” said Layton.

Conservative candidate Tyler Nesbitt gave an emailed statement after Monday’s print deadline when asked to be interviewed for this story:

Our fragile economy is the Conservative Party’s number one priority. With a $5 billion surplus so far this year we’re pursuing a low-tax, balanced budget plan to protect Canadian jobs and growth in the face of global uncertainty.

While the Liberals and the NDP are promising high-taxes and deep deficits with their  anti- development ideology, we have relied on independent scientific advice and analysis when making decisions about energy infrastructure projects. We’ve been clear: projects will only move forward if they are safe for Canadians and safe for the environment.

The NDP is promising billions in new spending with no plan to pay for it. The Liberals announced they will run multi-billion deficits. Under both of these plans taxes will have to go up and that will expose our fragile economy, cost the people of the Northwest money and cost them their jobs.

On October 19th, Canadians needs to ask themselves which party is best to manage and protect the fragile Canadian economy – and your job – in the face of global economic turmoil?