Martin Mars water bombers raised as election issue


Questions raised around political donations and the awarding of firefighting contracts

There are many that believe the Martin Mars should be a part of the provincial arsenal to fight fires each summer.

Despite being the oldest, they are also the largest, water bombers in the world.

Their lack of a BC firefighting contract is an issue in the Mid Island-Pacific Rim riding where they are based.

“I would say that it should be an issue,” says Green Party candidate Alecia La Rue.

A Port Alberni City Councillor who received past firefighting contracts through a Freedom of Information request says the Martin Mars costs are not out of line.

Chris Alemany also questions the optics of the awarded contracts.

Conair, the Abbotsford company, with the largest provincial contract for aerial firefighting, donated more than $100,000 to the BC Liberals since 2005.

In the past five years the company has been paid $78 million.

The riding’s candidates weighed in on whether companies that make political contributions should be awarded provincial contracts.

“Procurement is an independent process of government,” says Liberal candidate Darren Deluca. “I think that’s the way it needs to remain.”

“Big donations should never happen,” says NDP candidate Scott Fraser. “The appearance of that influence in government decisions, or the reality that it is, either way that should never happen.”

“Union and (corporate) donations should not be in politics at all,” says La Rue. “Because it’s very apparent you know ‘It’s the one that gives the most money that gets the contract.'”

As for whether the Martin Mars should be considered for provincial contracts in the future.

“I’ve made it very clear to the people in this riding that if I’m elected, they’ll have a voice in government and I’ll be a strong advocate for the Martin Mars to be put back into service,” says Deluca.

“We do support getting the Martin Mars back in the air but because it makes sense,” says La Rue.

“Everybody should get a fair opportunity to bid on that process not one that’s maybe fettered by donations, that come in, so I wouldn’t want to presume,” says Fraser.

All say they understand the emotional connection the region has with the Martin Mars.

The giant water bombers still holding some influence as people go to the polls this week.

Kendall HansonKendall Hanson

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