Pubdate: Wed, 11 Jan 2006
Source: Courier-Islander (CN BC)
Copyright: 2006 Courier-Islander (Campbell River)
Author: Dan MacLennan, Courier-Islander
Bookmark: (Decrim/Legalization)


Vancouver Island North candidates locked horns on a number of topics during 
round one of CRTV's all-candidates forum last Thursday.

The open format featured several exchanges between candidates as well as 
moments when all four candidates tried to be heard above each other with 
varying degrees of success. The conversation ranged from the minimum wage 
through child care and health care to gun control, drugs and bulk water 
exports. When asked what the Vancouver Island North Member of Parliament 
should do to change the direction of drug addiction in the riding, NDP 
candidate Catherine Bell said programs and services are haphazard because 
provincial and federal funding is not in place.

"We need a comprehensive drug program, a comprehensive strategy where we 
can work with the provinces, work with the communities and work with the 
individuals to get them, when they're ready, to get off drugs and get 
healthy again," she said. "That's what's been lacking. We have to make sure 
that we are tough on crime, and we will also be tough on the causes of 
crime. The causes of crime in many cases are poverty. We need to deal with 
all those things."

Green Party candidate Michael Mascall agreed, saying there was a need for 
stability in communities where people look out for each other on a 
community level. But he then veered into dangerous territory.

"If you look at the North Island, we've had basically what I call a 'camp' 
mentality," he said. "Campbell River is a centre and we fly people in and 
out of those camps just to rape and pillage the local resources. They might 
be out there for three weeks logging or something and them come back with a 
big pay cheque and they spend it all quickly on drugs and alcohol..."

"Now come on," Bell interjected. "That's a little unfair to people..."

Liberal Jim Mitchell jumped in, saying there are huge problems related to 
alcohol and drug abuse on the North Island, particularly among youths. He 
called for a coordinated, multi-agency approach to the problem.

"I know that's one that I'll be working on right away if I'm fortunate 
enough to be elected," he said. "Quite often, drug and alcohol issues are a 
reflection of other problems that have to be identified and addressed. That 
is why early-learning and child care program and programs like Success by 
6, which are supported by the federal Liberal government, are the beginning 
of resolving these issues."

Conservative Candidate John Duncan saw the issue from a law enforcement 

"People in Campbell River know very well that a big part of the problem 
relates to some very serious drug dealers in this community," he said. "The 
laws are inadequate; the sentences are inadequate." Duncan said the 
Conservatives would target drug dealers with minimum two-year sentences and 
no early parole.

"We're going to make crystal meth precursor drugs much more unavailable."

Then he targeted Mascall's 'camp' mentality comment.

"I am really surprised Michael at your comments which denigrated every 
hard-working logger and others that go into a camp situation on this 
coast," he said. "They are hard-working people doing a very essential job."

"Absolutely," Bell said. "My father was one of those people."

Duncan called for a national drug strategy steering youth away from drugs. 
He said the Liberals, often supported by the NDP, have been soft on drugs 
and soft on crime. Mascall was going entirely in the other direction.

"I would just like to say, from a Green perspective, we would like to see 
the legalization of drugs," he said. "We think that that is one way of 
dealing with it and then it does not become a crime. You get rid of the 
dealers and it becomes more of a health issue and getting people to deal 
with their own lives in a responsible way."
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