This is the third article in a series focusing on topics that our readers voted most important to them in the upcoming federal election. Every candidate in the Cariboo-Prince George riding got a chance to speak about where they stand on five issues; Crime, Forest Industry, West Olefins, Climate Change, and Immigration.

In this riding, Tracy Calogheros (Liberal), Heather Sapergia (NDP), Mackenzie Kerr (Green) and Jing Lan Yang (PPC) are all challenging incumbent Todd Doherty (Conservative). 

In this article, we asked each candidate where they stand on West Olefins, a petrochemical plant recently proposed for the area.

(Candidates are in no particular order) 

PPC: Jing Lan Yang 

Yang said she hasn’t seen the details of development so she doesn’t know if they are on board with it yet, but the PPC is prepared to support industry development in the Cariboo-PG riding.  

“I think it would be a good project for us because I think forestry is our pillar industry and I think oil and gas should be our pillar industries too. I think personally I will promote a little bit about the agriculture development, a very strong sector, a pillar industry for our riding too.”  

Yang also added she needs to do more research, but she believes that environmental concerns are also important to voters. 

“Everyone cares about our environment, we want to make sure the environment protection, another key I am very passionate about, goes hand in hand with industrial development.” 

NDP: Heather Sapergia 

Sapergia said she has met with CEO of West Olefins, Ken James, and there are a lot of contributing factors to whether or not this would be a good development for the Northern Capital.   

“The plastic plant will certainly bring in good employment into the area, which is particularly timely considering how many jobs are being lost in the forest industry. From listening to the people who are really invested in the effects of the plant on Prince George, I don’t believe that the location is correct. I believe it should go outside the bowl, but that brings its own set of issues too.”  

Like most of the candidates, Sapergia said she needs more information. 

“I come out of the medical field and you can’t practice modern medicine without plastics, so that’s my perspective. But on the other hand, if you’ve you’ve got a plastics plant that is spewing out toluene and benzene and other carcinogens then we’re negating the positive effects of the jobs.” 

She added that James’ claim that the plant will be zero emissions is doubtful. 

“He’s trying to say that there are zero emissions, but that just can’t possibly be, that doesn’t make any sense to me. He needs to be honest about where the emissions are.”

Conservative: Todd Doherty 

Doherty said he’d like to see more of what the environmental impacts of the project would be, but otherwise, he’s excited about the development. 

“Anytime that a project of this magnitude is presented to us, we want to do our due diligence, we want to make sure the benefits outweigh the concerns.” 

“I’m cautiously optimistic. I hope we see something more concrete, I think this would be a game-changer for our region and for our community. We all know that the economic spin-offs would be huge in a region that is facing unprecedented job losses in the forestry industry. This could be something where we could see some of these displaced workers transition into this petrochemical business.” 

Green: Mackenzie Kerr 

Kerr says she has also met with the CEO of West Olefins for a deeper understanding of the proposal, and for her, it’s a confident “no” as far as support goes for the project. 

“As you can imagine I am not in support of it, for many reasons. The fracked gas is a huge issue for me, also the air quality, location, and plastic pellets are not on the top of my supportive radar.” 

“I think we are seeing a lot of job losses in forestry, so people are just seeing jobs and wanting to say yes. That is fair and understandable, but there are other opportunities that we can be looking into; like hemp.” 

Kerr mentioned that a hemp plant will be coming to Prince George soon, saying the announcement is on its way. 

“I think we need to be looking at other options before saying yes to projects like this that are just shipping plastic pellets to China to create plastic products for us to buy back. I don’t think that’s the way to be going with single-use plastics being banned soon.”     

Liberal: Tracy Calogheros 

Like Kerr and Sapergia, Calogheros has also attended information sessions and spoken with West Olefins CEO Ken James.  

“The science around the proposal is very complicated. It’s a big project, it’s a lot of money and it’s a lot of jobs, the potential there is huge, so it requires us to take a long look at it,” she said.  

“The company says they want to do things differently and they’re looking for social license to be able to move forward and I think that’s a good model. We get everybody around the table, we let everyone express their fears and then let’s actually boil down the science and figure out, not from the proponent side or the community side, but the actual fact side.”

She said at this point in the proposal, it’s all about getting more information. 

“We don’t know what we don’t know. So we’re looking to find a way to get all of the necessary information on the science, what that means for the airshed and the water and the residents.  There’s a lot of fear out there because of the forestry downturn and because people have worries about jobs and economies. It deserves a good, hard, long look.”

Our next article on climate change will be released tomorrow.