Leading up to the May 9, 2017, provincial election, I Love Creston asked the five Nelson-Creston candidates five questions. Responding were:
•Kim Charlesworth (Green party), who served on Nelson city council from 2008-2011;
•Michelle Mungall (NDP), who served on Nelson city council from 2002-2005, and has been the Nelson-Creston MLA since 2009;
•Jesse O’Leary (independent), a Kaslo resident;
•Tom Prior (independent), a Nelson resident; and
•Tanya Wall (Liberal party), an Erickson resident, who served on Creston town council from 2008-2014 and as Regional District of Central Kootenay Area B director since 2014.
1. Why is representing the Nelson-Creston riding important to you?
Kim Charlesworth: I am concerned about the future of our communities and feel that the Green Party offers the best opportunity to bring real change to government. I love this region. The best part of being on Nelson city council was getting to know the people and organizations that made up the community. Kaslo, Salmo, Creston and all the smaller towns in Nelson-Creston are vibrant, creative and interesting. I want the best for this incredibly bountiful region that, I feel, is currently being under-represented.
Michelle Mungall: The Kootenays are an amazing place and I am honoured to stand up for the issues that matter to us. Whether it’s keeping Jumbo wild, reducing poverty, advocating for local jobs, health services and public education, or supporting local industries like agriculture, forestry and tourism, I’m proud every time I speak for our region in B.C.’s legislature.
Jesse O’Leary: There are major issue all over the world. But here in B.C. we’re blessed, in this area even more so. Nelson-Creston is one of the most beautiful places, attracts amazing people and has countless opportunities.
Truth is, I’m a forward thinking human being. Running in Nelson-Creston is important because I believe there’s a sizeable number of people here that will understand the value in what I’m offering.
Tom Prior: Currently we lack effective political leadership. Nelson-Creston, like other B.C. Interior ridings, needs independent provincial representation that is willing to speak up and act to return value-added jobs for timber, water, mining and agriculture resources.
Tanya Wall: This is my home and I am passionate about ensuring that it is sustainable for future generations. I believe we need an MLA who will work harder on local issues and carry a positive message to government about the endless opportunities that the Kootenays hold. The diversification of this area and our willingness to succeed are a true testament to this area and the people that live here.
Over nine years in local government, I have seen how much harder our communities have had to work because we were on the opposite side of the government in power. We need a strong representative with a positive vision that is willing to work hard for farmers, business owners, local government and community organizations to move us forward and open doors.
- What are the biggest challenges facing the Nelson-Creston riding?
Kim Charlesworth: Lack of a strong and healthy economy and affordable housing. The current government is completely focused on liquid natural gas as its economic development strategy for the province, taking us down a disastrous path both economically and environmentally. Nelson-Creston has a rich potential in agriculture, renewable energy, forestry and small business. These sectors are being ignored. Why? Because they are not part of the status quo that sits in Victoria. Our region has amazing abilities and resources. We are now losing out due to policies and direction that are being set by the existing government.
Michelle Mungall: Like all of B.C., too many people are struggling to make ends meet with an ongoing affordable housing crisis and increasing costs like ICBC rates, MSP and hydro — all as a direct result of Christy Clark’s decisions. Seniors care is also in crisis when only nine out of every 10 residential care homes meet minimum care standards.
More unique to the Creston Valley is the BC Liberals’ rezoning of our class A farmland. This has reduced protections on our food systems at a time when food prices are going up.
We also need better government involvement and support for the Creston Valley Wildlife Management Area.
Jesse O’Leary: Honestly, that feels like a loaded question. There are many issues in this district that encompass all types of social groups. To say one issue is the “biggest” could alienate large groups of people from the more important factors of my campaign.
I’m sick of the way politics is done. So I’m offering a dramatically differently approach, starting with listening to people, hearing them, feeling their concerns and making their problems my problems.
Politicians should be servants to the people. They should be asking, what do you need? How can I help? And that’s why I’ll be investing a large portion of my salary directly into the community to deal with issues ASAP on the grassroots level.
Tom Prior: There is a paucity of political inspiration that works with local small business to create value-added wealth in our communities. We face more and more challenges every year with housing, gainful employment and other poverty issues that are becoming the norm. We are being hoodwinked into believing poverty is a growth industry; a growing industry of “poverty professionals” unknowingly accepts and promote this false poverty. This must be reversed or we will continue to be robbed of our vast wealth of human and raw resources.
Tanya Wall: Small rural communities face challenges like business and job retention, health care, education, affordable housing and maintaining the infrastructure that is so important to all our communities. We need an MLA that will advocate for investment into infrastructure, job development, schools and teachers, health care and recruiting more services, affordable housing, forestry sectors and tourism programs. We need a voice that understands farmers, business owners and local governments, how hard they are working and what they are going through to keep their employees working and their doors open.
- How will you encourage food security, and help young people to take up farming?
Kim Charlesworth: I have seen firsthand the interest young people have in farming. We need a multipronged and long term approach to “grow” this. First, I will work hard to create an environment where local agriculture can thrive. In the short term we need to rebuild extension services through the Ministry of Agriculture. In the longer term, government can play an enabling and co-ordinating role with producers, distributors and educators. Second, I will work to bring more independence and power back to the Agricultural Land Commission to protect farmland. Third, I will continue to bring forward legislation like the bill recently tabled by BC Green Leader Andrew Weaver, the property law and land title amendment act, that ensures farmland is safeguarded from real estate speculation using foreign capital.
Michelle Mungall: To encourage young farmers’ success, you need a strong agricultural sector. After holding a community forum on agriculture in 2009, I began a multi-year program to support local food. I hosted a discussion group with young farmers and John Hogan, Paris Marshall Smith did an internship that produced a report on building Kootenay local food markets and I worked with my colleagues on policies for Grow BC, Buy BC and Feed BC. I also vigorously opposed Christy Clark’s Bill 24 that rezoned our class A farmland into second-class ALR protection. If re-elected, I will continue working with our local farmers to bring forward supports needed to grow this sector.
Jesse O’Leary: Permaculture is a method of farming that works with natural systems and can restore damage to the soil among other things. I would increase awareness around it.
Artificial scarcity is food security’s biggest threat.
Anyone working in a grocery store. We throw away millions of tons of edible food each day in Canada. A few years back, France made it illegal for stores to throw away food. This seems a little extreme but I will work on creative solutions that will ensure more food ends up feeding people and much less is wasted.
Websites like HelpX and wwoofing connect farmers with willing workers from around the world this could be a major factor to ensure farms have enough help come harvest season.
I will also meet with schools, farmers and youth to come up with fun interactive learning experiences to inspire young people to take up farming.
Tom Prior: Food security is relative to political stability. Canada’s food supply is secure when our governance is based on the common good. We can regain food security in Nelson-Creston by returning Pacific salmon stocks to the upper Columbia system. The U.S.A. and state of Washington, with full co-operation of all First Nations have started this effort in earnest. BC Hydro and our present liberal government oppose this effort.
Leading by example. Ten years ago I developed a organic urban garden and greenhouse business that has inspired dozens in Nelson to take up urban gardening.
Tanya Wall: For many years I have been an advocate for local agriculture and creating stronger networks, which has a direct impact on food security. I have been a member of the Creston Valley’s Fields Forward impact team, and was recently elected to the Regional District of Central Kootenay food policy council. We have seen encouraging results from people working together to create a stronger agriculture network and collaborative working groups. I will continue to work with the Ministry of Agriculture and the Ministry of Jobs, Tourism and Skills Training to showcase the importance of agriculture producers in our area.
Through Fields Forward, we have been providing workshops that introduce younger people to farming, and linking longtime farmers with younger generations. Farming is hard work but it is truly through passion for a healthier lifestyle that we keep seeing growth and new farmers being creative. One of the largest hurdles is keeping agricultural land affordable for young farmers to invest in.
- How will you develop greater levels of co-operation between governments, First Nations, business and non-profits?
Kim Charlesworth: Collaboration starts with listening and seeking to understand the true needs of all partners. We need to define what our shared vision of co-operation and reconciliation looks like, and then be honest about what action it will take to reach that vision. The best way I know of doing that is getting to know my community — through round tables, stakeholder discussions, seeking input and then developing a shared path. So the short answer is by bringing the various partners together to define what is needed. Listen, plan and act.
Michelle Mungall: A key principle in any working relationship is “nothing about us without us.”
I am honoured to have a positive working relationship with the Ktunaxa Nation council and Yaqan Nukiy, especially in the work to protect Qat’muk, known to many as the Jumbo Valley. Going forward in an era of reconciliation, it is important that government work in partnership with First Nations, respect their rights and traditions and discontinue colonial practices.
I meet with the six chambers of commerce, other local business groups and non-profits to stay up to date on their activities and how I may be of help. For example, when the Balfour local businesses were under threat by a ferry terminal move, we worked together to ensure government chose Balfour. I’ve also toured facilities at the Therapeutic Activation Program for Seniors and the Creston Valley Community Housing Society and supported their important work. I build bridges by referring groups to each other when they have mutual interests and a potential to work together.
Jesse O’Leary: By bringing them together to discuss what their needs are. Effective communication is a key factor in create the best opportunity for co-operation.
Tom Prior: I would work to stop the “divide and conquer” politics that is still part of the Canadian provincial and federal governments’ methods to pit the many B.C. non-ceded First Nations against each other.
Co-operation with business, First Nations and non-profits will develop as our governments engage in the important truth and reconciliation process that will with time bring our First Nations out of residential school shock, and we will gain further the wisdom from our brothers and sisters in the Métis and all First Nations.
Tanya Wall: Building positive relationships is key. We have a common goal to improve our communities, strengthen them through opportunities and offer improvements to the lifestyle we choose to live in the Kootenays. It’s about respect, listening to each other and working together. I am a strong believer that we are stronger together. Linking our communities to resources, the right levels of government and supporting each other will drive positive change.
- How will you help your constituents deal with the unpredictable effects of climate change and natural disasters?
Kim Charlesworth: First, our government must show leadership on a comprehensive climate action plan. BC Green Leader Andrew Weaver is one of the world’s leading scientists on climate change and has worked with several governments to develop climate action plans. This is expertise that I will draw on to help my constituents in Nelson-Creston. As for dealing with effects of climate change, current research shows us what will happen with local precipitation and temperature patterns in the future, how that will affect our infrastructure, as well as our growing season, and what crops will be successful in the changing climate. I will work with local governments to plan for a green future and help bring resources needed to offset the effects of climate change.
Michelle Mungall: The NDP’s Clean Growth Action Plan, supported by climate action experts like Tzeporah Berman, will get the province back on track to meet our climate targets, stimulate innovation, create jobs, protect B.C. businesses, support rural communities, and use new carbon tax revenues to put more money back in the pockets of low and middle income families. Reducing emissions will help to lower impacts from climate change. Making carbon pricing affordable and investing in green jobs will help families. Learn more at www.bcndp.ca.
Jesse O’Leary: Climate change is one of our biggest issues. We need to move quickly towards sustainable energy and green technology. There are many things I believe we needed to be doing yesterday, but today is better than tomorrow. Check out my Moving Forward section on my website, thinkindependently.blog.
Our present economic system does not take into consideration the natural environment or human well-being. We have to do things differently, so I plan to bring the community together and communicate effectively on the best way we can go about moving forward.
Tom Prior: Leading by example. A few years back, I and half a dozen old growth wilderness activists convinced B.C.’s Ministry of Forests, Lands and Natural Resource Operations not to log a large old-growth area in the Westfall River area; this is very important mountain caribou/grizzly habitat. This large ancient old growth cedar/hemlock sequesters a vast amount of carbon that would have been released with clear-cut logging.
One of the cornerstones of our campaign is to begin the complicated political process that will reverse the destructive effects of B.C.’s boom and bust resource economic momentum. This boom/bust economic will is increasingly less viable and is under pressure from the middle class of Canada that is losing confidence in this system. The political/corporate system that has caused this and continues to push the finite limits of our ecosystem. We must elect politicians to start this new age of economics that does not pit the health of our environment against the economics that we believe creates wealth.
Tanya Wall: This year has already proven to be a challenge. Educating constituents about services, resources and advocating to the provincial government is key. Working together with all levels of government, planning, being prepared and having resources at hand locally are so important for quick responses. Working with key stakeholders, utility companies, contractors and emergency services to understand each other’s roles ensures the safety of everyone. It’s truly about ensuring that we invest in education, training and enabling the resources required when incidents happen.