Comox Valley Record- Trio make case to represent NDP in federal riding

By Erin Haluschak – Comox Valley Record
Published: February 15, 2011 3:00 PM

Health care, environmental issues and maritime resources were only a few of the topics debated by three candidates Saturday who are vying to fill the position as the federal Vancouver Island North NDP representative.

In front of about 60 people at the Filberg Centre, Shirley Ackland, Ronna-Rae Leonard and Erik Eriksson answered a series of questions from the audience, in hopes of filling the job left vacant as former MP Catherine Bell stepped down earlier this year to work full time on her business.

Coun. Shirley Ackland of Port McNeill noted in her opening address her priorities include access to universal health care, environmental issues and access to education.

Coun. Ronna-Rae Leonard of Courtenay said she is committed to maintaining the Canadian identity including the democratic process, guarding health care and the Canadian pension plan, and making sure to care for people and not bend to big businesses.

Former Courtenay councillor Erik Eriksson reflected on his record of accomplishment, biography, NDP involvement and ideas as the skills capable of filling the role of candidate.

Following the short introduction, candidates answered questions from the audience for more than an hour.

One member asked the panel for their position on the centralization of Canada Post for mail sorting in Vancouver, and their stand on anti-scab legislation, particularly regarding the Canadian Union of Postal Workers versus Canada Post.

“I was really disheartened when Canada Post decided to centralize their services. We can’t move everything to the cities and it doesn’t help our communities. As for the anti-scab legislation, I have been a union member all of my working life,” said Ackland.

Eriksson agreed with Ackland, adding, “How better to get people not to use a service? In terms of the anti-scab legislation, it should be against the law to replace workers.”

Leonard echoed the consensus, noting Canadians should have good access to communication anywhere they live.

“Canada Post should be serving all Canadians. We have to support Canada Post,” she said, adding as for the anti-scab legislation, she refused to have her baby delivered years ago by hospital staff who were filling in while medical staff were on strike.

Bell queried candidates what they felt was the biggest issue facing the North Island, and how they would address the issue.

“I’ve lived in all three areas (Comox Valley, Campbell River and the North Island) and I would restore manufacturing jobs,” answered Eriksson.

“I wish it was black and white,” said Ackland. “We’re losing huge amounts of resource jobs, there’s environmental concerns … and the First Nations who have land-use issues and have signed a protocol have been at the back of the line for the last 200 years.”

Leonard added maritime resources is her highest priority.

“In the Comox Valley, we’ve got shellfish, in Campbell River, we’ve got fish farms, and in the North, it’s supertankers. That’s where the environment and jobs come together. We’ve got to protect the environment to protect jobs,” she said.

Other questions touched on the Raven Coal Mine, seniors’ issues and the pharmacare system, and engaging young people in the democratic process.

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