Sunday, May 03, 2009

Profiles of the candidates from the Daily News - Gary Coons

Prince Rupert’s Daily Newspaper continued with its in depth look at the candidates on Friday, with the final of the profiles of the three local candidates seeking our vote on May 12th.

The final installment of the candidate profiles featured the incumbent MLA Gary Coons of the New Democratic Party.

Daily News Election profiles
Gary Coons
By George T. Baker
Prince Rupert Daily News
Friday, May 1, 2009
Page 10

For the incumbent, it probably hasn't been too easy.

It can't be that easy to be a critic. Arguing and opposing moves that one finds abhorrent cannot be easy full knowing that some of these stances would create enemies.

There have been times over the last four years that Gary Coons could have been quiet, could have kept his mouth shut and gone about representing the North Coast as just another politico that was just happy to be there. That would have been easier.

It's the first time Coons has had to defend his seat in the riding and he couldn't have picked a more charismatic challenger in BC Uberal and former Mayor Herb Pond.

Then there is the youngest candidate in the whole province, the Green Party's Usa Girbav.

They represent two good ways to lose the limelight in an election that will most certainly be determined by how each candidate connects with the undecided.

Pond has is campaigning about opening doors for the North Coast while Girbav has taken the underdog role and campaigns on representing a disenfranchised segment of the population - young voters.

Listed amongst all the talk of which voice should speak for the North Coast is the imcumbent MIA, who feels that he has accomplished quite a bit in his first four years, an advantage which he freely admits he has to "go on."

He considers himself a voice of the people, speaking on issues from farmed salmon to port development, and from independent power production to schooling.

A lot of the time has been spent on being a critic of the current government on those issues, asking where and how public money has been spent.

" I look at where the port has gone and I am asked all the time, what is the timef rame for the Port of Prince Rupert? Well it took many, many years - about 25 years ago when CN was preparing the track - many politicians from both parties were working on that 'from Dan Miller to Bill Belsey," said Coons.

Coons is referring to the last two representatives of his riding; one a long time NDP representative, and the other a one term MLA for the BC Liberals. What should be more telling is that the Port is the child that every political parent in town seems to love.

Ever since Charles Hayes went down with the Titanic, Prince Rupert has been the little city that "could be". Once the town lost the Skeena Pulp Mill, the port became the sole reason for many to continue living here.

Many Rupertites see port development as a good thing and because of that, it has become the object of candidate triumph for both Coons and Pond.

Coons is not shy about talking of the necessitY'of the Port for Prince Rupert's future and claims that he will do more in the next four years to help its development.

"There is a commitment from the BCNDP that we will work towards phase two and consolidating the logistics centre," said Coons.

Port aside; there are other hot topics on the North Coast that aren't so easily discussed by both sides.

Off shore oil and tanker traffic have become the sources of much political debate because all sides have weighed in on the economic and environmental imperatives that approving such offshore drills and bitumen pipelines would provide.

The NDP have said, for the record, that they would support a federal moratorium on offshore oil.

"A healthy economy only comes with a healthy environment. The last thing we want is tankers going up and down the North Coast," said Coons.

The former teacher said, instead of oil the North Coast needs its fish. He said his party would reinvest in fisheries, an important historical industry for locals all around the North Coast.

Coons wants people to see him as a balanced environmental economist. To do that, though, he will have to rectify the criticism his party has taken by committing to axing the cal bon tax _ something that has furrowed the brows of environmentalists across the province.

In defending his party's platform, Coons slips into his critic role seamlessly.

"We all believe there needs to be some sort of taxation on carbon.' But Gordon Campbell's tax was mandated without consultation and no input from either municipal leaders or First Nations leaders," said Coons,

Instead, Coons' party suggests entering a national cap and trade program, similar to Barack Obama's plan.

"We can't have rogue legislation that dictates how we are going to look at carbon taxation," said Coons, who then relents on the critic role, if ever so slightly.

"I believe that perhaps the premier was on the right tract but he did it as he always does, without consultation," said Coons.

Coons freely admits the 90s NDP government made mistakes, but he says this is a different NDP party than it was a decade ago.

Does that mean Coons will be a different man over the next four years? Well if his party remains in opposition, as polls suggest, then the intelligent bettor wouldn't throw his chips behind that play.

"You know, people say you're negative - you're negative. Quite often there are some policies of the provincial government that move forward that benefited us. But my job for the last four years was to be in opposition - and I think I did a good job."

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