Christy Clark under fire at Westside-Kelowna all-candidates meeting

West Kelowna, B.C. — The Canadian Press

B.C. Premier Christy Clark arrives for a candidate caucus meeting in Vancouver, B.C., on Thursday May 23, 2013, after winning a majority in the provincial election earlier this month.

Premier Christy Clark was the target, and the main draw, Thursday night as several hundred people crowded into an all-candidates forum in the Okanagan riding where the Premier is seeking a by-election win that will let her return to the legislature.

Voting day is set for July 10 in the Westside-Kelowna riding because the incumbent B.C. Liberal stepped down soon after the recent provincial election to create an opening for Clark, who led her Liberals to an unexpected victory but lost her own Vancouver seat.

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Eight candidates, including Clark, took on issues such as agriculture, growing the Okanagan community’s local economy and the hot topic of a second bridge over Okanagan Lake.

“I believe it’s time for us to start planning a second crossing,” Clark said, earning a loud round of applause.

The statement prompted disbelief from B.C. Conservative candidate Sean Upshaw.

“I wonder whether she is Christy Clark or Kris Kringle,” he quipped.

Former B.C. NDP candidate turned independent, Dayleen VanRyswyck, was booed for comments toward the Premier and what she said were empty Liberal promises.

“I’m just curious to see what else she will promise while she is here,” VanRyswyck said.

Much of the Westside riding is separated from the City of Kelowna by Okanagan Lake, and the current five-lane W.R. Bennett bridge was completed in 2008, replacing the decades-old Okanagan Lake Bridge.

All candidates tackled the issue of the agriculture sector, considered the lifeblood of the riding.

NDP candidate Carole Gordon said agriculture was clearly not a priority for the Liberal government because there have been four different ministers in the agriculture portfolio in the last five years.

“Every time you switch a minister it takes time for them to get caught up in what is happening. That’s wasted time. That’s time not spent supporting agriculture in this community,” Gordon told the crowd.

But Clark said agriculture was very important, and pointed to the government’s work at expanding the cherry trade into China.

“Twenty million dollars more Okanagan cherries are going into China in 2014. And that’s just the beginning for expanding the markets for agriculture,” she told the crowd.

Several candidates took turns taking jabs at the Premier.

“In this election we need to vote progressively to ban Christy Clark from the legislature,” said Independent candidate Korry Zepik.

VanRyswyck said Clark knows nothing about the community she wants to represent.

Upshaw said he hoped Clark wouldn’t be on the ballot for the 2017 election, but the Premier dashed those hopes, telling the crowd that if she wins the by-election she will run again in Westside-Kelowna in the next general election.

Advance voting will be held through Saturday.

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