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Nelson-Creston election candidates weigh in on housing, education

Our first Q&A with the five candidates running for MLA in the May 9 provincial election.
There are five candidates in the upcoming election.

Leading up the May 9 election, the Star will publish a weekly series of question and answer sessions with the five candidates running in Nelson-Creston. For each session, we will ask all the candidates the same two questions. Today’s questions are about affordable housing and education. The responses were gathered by phone, and have been lightly edited. Their detailed platforms can be found on their parties’ websites.

Question 1: How should the government address the affordable housing crisis in B.C.?

Tanya Wall (B.C. Liberal)

We see the affordable housing crisis in all our communities around the Kootenays, especially in our larger centres like Nelson and Creston, so we need to invest and our plan needs to have a rural focus.

There is lots of money going into the Lower Mainland, but in the Kootenays we have the same barriers affecting seniors and young families and young mothers.

I want to lobby for two projects, one in Nelson and one in Creston, and we’ve already started work in Creston to get the right funding sources together. This is an important necessity.

I believe we need to work on the densification of downtown. It drives me crazy to see buildings empty when so many people need housing.

Michelle Mungall (B.C. NDP)

Step one: recognize it’s happening.

That has not been done by Christy Clark until we dragged her kicking and screaming, and she hasn’t addressed this issue to the full need. I think that has to be said.

How are we going to do that: one, we want to deal with loopholes that allow for real estate speculation, and we’ve introduced legislation on that, and we would create a fund that would create more affordable housing.

Two, we need to work with local governments to work with rent-purpose housing. And three, when the federal government pulls out of funding co-op housing, we will step in to make sure those units stay affordable.

Tom Prior (Independent)

I am going to advocate for value-added jobs in the West Kootenay.

I believe I’m going to be able to answer the affordable housing question when we start keeping wealth here. People will build houses when they get value-added jobs. People will move here and raise their families here and start businesses here.

If we have a mill in Meadow Creek and Kaslo, and if we start using our local talent, we’ll stop being robbed of our wealth and people will have enough money to find themselves a decent place to live.

Kim Charlesworth (B.C. Greens)

Homelessness has to be dealt with in partnership with the agencies on the frontline.

The Housing First strategy has been shown to be the most effective in terms of providing adequate affordable housing for those who are struggling with issues that lead to homelessness.

For the working poor, affordability is still an issue and we want to extend the remedies that were brought in under Bill 28 last year to the rest of the province, to help speculation that exists even in Nelson-Creston.

Jesse O’Leary (Independent)

We could probably solve the affordable housing crisis by working on a few other issues first. For instance, the forestry industry is massive and there’s a lot of wood and awesome building material that’s not currently being used that we could utilize to create new homes.

We could also move towards tiny homes, which can be built for between $20 to 40,000 and sometimes for as little as $5,000. We could create tiny home parks. How much B.C. Crown Land does the province own that could be used for this?

Squatting needs to be made easier, more legit, and acceptable for people to do. Opening a factory that could create pre-fabricated houses, which can be put together like Lego and only take a few weeks to build, would also help.

We should also be growing plenty of hemp to supply these factories.

Question 2: How should the government support education in B.C.?

Tanya Wall (B.C. Liberal)

We really need to lobby for more investment in rural schools, and why I say this is if you look at the Ministry of Education’s decisions especially over the last year we have rural schools that are not being funded properly.

A perfect example is Jewett, which was facing closure. They closed Yahk, and that’s justifiable because there are no students, but there are other schools that are not getting what they need in terms of maintenance and extra-curricular enhancements.

We need to invest more into teachers and give them the resources they run to run their classes properly and provide our youth with a proper education.

Michelle Mungall (B.C. NDP)

First off, we’re going to work with teachers. That has not happened in the last 16 years with the B.C. Liberals. Christy Clark picked that fight.

If it wasn’t for teachers dragging her to the Supreme Court of Canada we would have never had our class size and composition needs addressed. We need to work with school boards to identify funding needs and look at where the province can get back into investing in public education.

We’re also looking at the capitol needs. Yesterday I was at ARES school in Creston, getting a tour of what their infrastructure needs are, and it’s an 80-year-old building. They have a lot of needs.

We need to look at what they are and how can we be working with schools so that, especially for rural students, how can they can get the education they need and deserve closer to home.

Tom Prior (Independent)

The value-added jobs thing is a double-edged sword.

I’ve been around for 40 years and I was here when there was a mill in Nelson, so with timber mills as an example there was a lot of education going on with apprenticeships.

We need value-added jobs in agriculture, timber, everywhere. Because education is bigger than schools.

A vibrant community takes care of its disenfranchised, takes care of its wealth and inspires people to not believe we’re poor because I believe we have the most incredible human resources here in the West Kootenay.

Kim Charlesworth (B.C. Greens)

I think we need to rebuild the public education system so parents don’t feel like they have to go outside to get an education for their children. Locally we’ve seen huge increases in the number of families choosing optional school systems.

That’s great if there’s a particular reason, but it shouldn’t be because the public education system is failing the children. We need to make sure that teachers have their resources, that class sizes reflect the ability of teachers to actually teach, and I think the curriculum needs to prepare people to thrive in a changing world, and to navigate the unknown.

We need to teach more problem-solving and strategic thinking skills, and support the teachers who do.

Jesse O’Leary (Independent)

When it comes to education, giving more money is a big factor but we also need new energy. There are a lot of ways we could be creating educational systems that perpetuate the economy instead of having separate entities.

Maybe there could be a wood shop where they make furniture, but they take in students young and old and teach them how to make the furniture and then sell it to people. We would be creating a much more interactive educational experience for the community that will also benefit and boost the economy.

I’ll be looking for ways to create educational experiences that are more in-depth, easily affordable if not free, and a wide range of diversity so students have options to choose more directly how they want to spend their time and develop their skills.