Kelowna West byelection candidates square off

Kelowna West byelection candidates square off

The five candidates zeroed in on ICBC’s financial woes at an all-candidates forum Wednesday night

The ailing health of B.C.’s auto insurance corporation, who’s to blame and what should be done about ICBC proved to be popular topics with the five candidates running in the Kelowna West byelection Wednesday evening during an all-candidates forum.

Seizing on news earlier this week that ICBC is looking at a projected loss of $1.3 billion, all five candidates—B.C. Conservative Mark Thompson, B.C. Liberal Ben Stewart, Shelley Cook of the NDP, B.C Green Robert Stupka and Libertarian Kyle Geronazzo—weighed in. Thompson and Cook blamed the former Liberal government, Stewart said the current NDP government knew about ICBC’s financial troubles in the past but has done nothing about them since coming to power last year and Geronazzo called for ICBC to be scrapped altogether.

Accusing the former Liberal government of Christy Clark of raiding ICBC coffers to balance past budgets, Thompson said the current government should pay ICBC back the more than $1 billion he says was taken from the it in the past by government.

The candidates also waded into the issue of housing affordability, with Stupka saying while more supply is needed, so too are rules to stop property speculation. Stewart said development approvals by municipalities need to to dealt with quicker and Cook said the current government is looking at new short- and medium-term housing for the homeless, closing loopholes that allow for large rent increases and new rules to curb speculation.

“We will be hearing more as this rolls out,” she said.

If there was one area of agreement by the candidates it was on the need for an health care centre for West Kelowna. All the candidates said they support the idea, despite Interior Health shelving the plan a few years ago.

“If West Kelowna was a city anywhere else in the province, it would have its own hospital,” said Thompson.

While he said the idea of an urgent health care centre in West Kelowna should be revisited, Stewart praised the former Liberal government he was part of until 2013 for increasing the health care budget from $9 billion when it came to power in 2001 to $22 billion by the time it was replaced by the NDP last year.

He touted local health care spending as well, including, hundreds of millions to expand Kelowna General Hospital, add a cancer centre, a new medical school and a cardiac care centre.

On the issue of transportation, Stupka said the region needs to look at alternative forms of transportation and he praised Kelowna Mayor Colin Basran’s recent call for investigating light rail for the valley.

“We need to be open to new transportation options,” he said, adding building more roads is “1950s transportation planning.”

The quintet also sparred over the issue of proportional representation when it comes to electoral reform.

While the government plans to send the issue to a referendum later this year, both Stewart and Geronazzo said they were opposed to moving away from the current “first-past-the-post” system, while Thompson and Stupka said they support adopting proportional representation for future B.C elections. Cook said she would support the will of the people in the referendum.

All the candidates expressed concern about the opioid overdose crisis gripping the province.

Cook said government’s “four-pillar” approach of prevention, education, harm reduction and treatment is the correct way to go.

Stupka said a holistic approach is needed to address the situation but Stewart, while conceding it is a major crisis, said he did not feel decriminalizing all drugs, as suggested by B.C. outgoing chief medical health officer, is the answer.

Thompson called for the government to appoint a cabinet minister to deal with the opioid overdose crisis and had to be reminded by Cook that a ministry for mental health and addictions was created by the new NDP government.

Stewart’s decision in 2013 to step down as MLA for the riding to allow Clark to run after she lost her Vancouver-area seat in the provincial election was brought up by Thompson, who referred to Stewart several times as a “quitter.”

Prior to stepping down in 2013, Stewart won two elections in the riding.

The byelection will go Feb 14.

To report a typo, email: edit@kelownacapnews.com.



awaters@kelownacapnews.com

Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.

Just Posted

(Dave Ogilvie photo)
One injured after being pinned by fallen forklift near Peachland

West Kelowna emergency crews responded to reports of a person stuck under a forklift

(Big White Ski Resort/Contributed)
Big White’s big clean-up: Large turnout for post-melt mountain tidy

More than 165 people showed up to help gather the litter left behind from the winter season

Mounties cover a burgundy truck with a tent at Buckerfields in West Kelowna on Monday, June 14. The RCMP is investigating after a woman’s body was found inside the truck. (Amandalina Letterio/Capital News)
West Kelowna RCMP investigating suspicious death after body found in truck

Police responded to a truck parked out front of a Main Street business where the body was found

(Jenna Cocullo / The Northern View)
Delays expected on Lakeshore Road this week

Northbound traffic on Lakeshore between Richter and Barrera will be detoured for paving

David Larsen, left, and co-host Tony Peyton. (K96.3/Twitter)
Popular Kelowna radio host dies after battle with cancer

David Larsen was half of the longtime Kelowna morning-show duo David and Tony

Singer-songwriter Jann Arden is pictured with a draft horse. (Canadian Horse Defence Coalition)
Jann Arden backs petition to stop live horse export

June 14 is the International Day to End Live Export of Animals

Montreal Canadiens goaltender Carey Price (31) is scored on by Vegas Golden Knights defenseman Alec Martinez, not pictured, during the second period in Game 1 of an NHL hockey Stanley Cup semifinal playoff series Monday, June 14, 2021, in Las Vegas. (AP Photo/John Locher)
Habs fall 4-1 to Vegas Golden Knights in Game 1 of NHL semifinal series

Match was Montreal’s first game outside of Canada in 2021

Penticton Overdose Prevention Society co-founders Desiree Franz, Shane Surowski and Stephanie Lines have created the city’s first unsanctioned public overdose prevention site using an old wine-tour bus. The site began operations in June 2021. (Desiree Franz/Facebook)
Volunteers launch Penticton’s first public supervised injection site

2021 is on pace to be the deadliest year for overdoses in Penticton on record

Kelowna-Lake Country MLA Norm Letnick, assistant deputy speaker at the B.C. legislature, presides over committee discussions. The legislature is completing its delayed spring session this week, with most MLAs participating by video conference. (Hansard TV)
B.C.’s daily COVID-19 infections dip below 100 over weekend

Only 68 new cases recorded Monday, four additional deaths

Cannabis bought in British Columbia (Ashley Wadhwani/Black Press Media)
Is it time to start thinking about greener ways to package cannabis?

Packaging suppliers are still figuring eco-friendly and affordable packaging options that fit the mandates of Cannabis Regulations

B.C. ambulance station in Revelstoke is expected to get a new system called the Scheduled On-Call (SOC) this fall. (Liam Harrap - Revelstoke Review)
B.C. ambulance changes could put Revelstoke residents at risk, warn local paramedics

Paramedics said to expect a substantial increase in ambulance response time starting this fall

Jane Linden
KCR: Volunteering keeps you active

Kelowna Community Resources shares stories of its volunteers in a weekly column

This goose family went for a leisurely stroll down Vernon’s Main Street Saturday, April 25. (Dave Deshane photo)
Controversial Vernon goose cull won’t fly this year

Necessary permit procedures held up at a federal level

The BC Ferries website went down for a short while Monday morning following a provincial announcement that recreational travel between health authorities can resume Tuesday. (Black Press Media file photo)
BC Ferries’ website crashes in wake of provincial reopening announcement

Website back up now, recreational travel between health regions to resume as of Tuesday

Most Read