Liberal MLA Kevin Falcon says he will continue to support resource communities like Campbell River if he becomes premier.
Falcon, who has declared his support for communities outside the Lower Mainland has run his campaign under the banner of being a leader and premier for every part of the province, says he has set his sights on boosting the natural resource sector, particularly the forestry industry.
“I think our economic opportunities lie in selling and exporting to Asia, particularly forestry products. If we focus on the Asia opportunity I believe we’ll start to see some of these mills re-open, as they already are in communities like Port Alberni and Mackenzie, B.C.,” said Falcon who made a stop in Campbell River Monday to speak at the Discover Inn. “We have a bright future if we open up our export opportunities and don’t rely on the U.S. market as we have historically done.”
Falcon said he will also continue to support aquaculture development and would encourage more licensed sites.
“We pay a big price in supporting aquaculture; it is hugely unpopular in urban ridings and we’ve lost a lot of seats there for it. But I’ve always thought it was the right thing to support it in rural areas and I will continue to support it,” said Falcon.
He has also lobbied for a new hospital in the community and as premier, would continue to make sure the city’s aging, existing facility is replaced.
“It was decided to build two new hospitals – one in Campbell River and one in the Comox Valley – and I think it was the right recommendation,” said Falcon. “I was supportive of it as health minister and I will be supportive of it as premier of the province.”
Mayor Charlie Cornfield said Falcon has always been there for Campbell River, whether it be for lobbying for a new hospital or putting forward funding for community projects such as the SeaWalk.
“Kevin Falcon has always had time for us. He was instrumental in bringing forth the highway improvements project, the airport extension, SeaWalk extension, advancing the hospital project and in stimulating our economy,” said Cornfield. “He’s been a good friend of the community’s.”
Falcon said Campbell River city council has been good about approaching him to discuss issues important to the community.
“The leaders in Campbell River are good about coming to me. I would hear their visions for the community and think ‘that sounds like a good idea’ and I would support it,” said Falcon.
He is also one of few MLA’s running for Liberal party leader that wants to put a freeze on any increases to the carbon tax to protect small business.
“I think we can be proud in showing leadership in this green initiative but the problem is, no one’s joined us in this stance and I don’t see any other provinces or states joining us. I can’t support it because it’s a disadvantage to the small business sector when competing with other provinces and states who don’t have something similar,” said Falcon. “I’m pro-environment but I think there are other things we can do too such as improving transit and cycling opportunities to reduce our carbon footprint.”
The other recently introduced tax – the Harmonized Sales Tax (HST) – does get support from Falcon, although he admits its introduction was handled poorly.
“There are times you have to stand for what’s right and not what’s easy and this is a classic example,” said Falcon, who cited the HST as bringing in millions of extra dollars into the forestry sector this year. “Believe me, the HST is very, very important for rural resource communities.”
If the HST survives the referendum, Falcon promises to lower the rate.
“I think a lot more people will come on board if we march it down to 10 per cent.”