Attendance low at candidate forum

Centre Stage Theatre was half-full as three candidates presented their views and answered questions

The three candidates in the riding of Penticton presented their platforms and answered questions at a public forum on April 20, but attendance was light.

Centre Stage Theatre was half-full as Liberal candidate Dan Ashton, Green Party candidate Connie Sahlmark and New Democratic Party candidate Tarik Sayeed spoke.

The forum was organized and sponsored by the Summerland Chamber of Commerce and Summerland Review. Questions for the candidates had been submitted in advance, and there were no further questions taken from the floor during the evening.

Sahlmark spoke about the importance of long-term thinking, especially in the face of climate change.

“Our current political representatives are not looking at our future strategically,” she said. “Let’s think common sense.”

Ashton, the incumbent candidate, spoke about his record as the MLA for the riding since 2013.

He mentioned his work locally, including his efforts to keep Trout Creek Elementary School open, the funding he worked to provide for the lakeside trail and the his work with the Garnett Valley Water System Separation project.

“We build a better B.C. by helping communities like Summerland.,” he said. “I’m incredibly proud of the track record of the British Columbia government.”

Sayeed said his party, the provincial New Democrats, offer a better option than the Liberals.

“We can’t afford another four years of [Premier] Christy Clark,” he said.

He said promises made by Clark and the B.C. Liberals, including the promise of a family doctor for every British Columbian by 2015, have not yet happened.

However, Ashton said the New Democrats did not do well in health care.

He said during 10 years of New Democrat governments, the party did not build any new hospitals in the province.

The Liberals have put funding into health care, including doubling the number of doctors in training, he said.

Sahlmark said it is important to increase health care services for people in Summerland and other rural communities.

Discussing education funding, Ashton said additional funding has gone to education, but in the Okanagan Skaha School District, the student population has declined by 1,900 students.

Sahlmark said provincial politicians need to look at the long-term effects of their educational decisions.

Sayeed said British Columbia’s education system under Christy Clark’s Liberals has dropped from second best in Canada to second worst.

The three candidates also pledged to work with others in the legislature if their parties do not form the governing party.

“We have to work together,” Sahlmark said.

“Together, we can build a better British Columbia for everyone,” Sayeed said.

“My forte has always been collaboration and cooperation,” Ashton said, adding that he has had a good relationship with everyone in the legislature.

The election will be held on Tuesday, May 9.

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