By Lyonel Doherty
Oliver residents are encouraged to have their questions ready for next week’s all-candidates meeting.
The South Okanagan Chamber of Commerce is hosting the event at Frank Venables Theatre on March 22 from 7-9 p.m. Other meetings are scheduled in Osoyoos at the Sonora Community Centre on March 23 and in Okanagan Falls on March 21 at the recreation centre.
Chamber Executive Director Denise Blashko confirmed two provincial election candidates so far – incumbent Liberal MLA Linda Larson and challenger Colleen Ross from the NDP.
No sign of a Green Party or Conservative candidate yet, Blashko said.
The meetings will follow the familiar format of candidates being introduced and given three minutes for their presentations. A public question period will follow, ending with the candidates giving a three-minute summary.
People are being asked to email their questions ahead of time to firstname.lastname@example.org or they can drop them off at the chamber office at 6237 Main Street in Oliver. People sending their questions are asked to indicate what meeting location they will be attending.
Blashko said the public will be given an opportunity to verbally ask questions if time permits.
Larson said her primary focus will be the economy’s stability.
“I will touch on the different things that we (the Liberals) have done in each community because of our strong economy.”
Larson said her constituents have raised concern about the province’s Medical Services Plan and how BC is the only province that charges premiums as a separate entity from taxes. She noted that other provinces bury the cost in general taxation.
“We don’t want to bury it (because people need to see what they are paying).”
However, Larson said the Liberals have introduced a plan to revamp the MSP by phasing it out (at least half of it by next year).
“That has taken a lot of pressure off people,” she pointed out.
The Boundary-Similkameen MLA said other issues such as the national park and funding for rural schools have already been dealt with and are “old news.” These were fixed a year ago, she noted.
Larson reiterated the message is building a strong economy and providing jobs for people. “That’s what is most important.”
Ross said it has been too long that residents in Boundary-Similkameen have gone without a representative who really listens to and has the courage to represent their interests in Victoria.
“This is what I’m hearing on the doorstep, again and again. People are feeling squeezed. Fees are going up everywhere: hydro rates, housing/rent costs and camping fees.”
Ross said the Liberals’ MSP overhaul is merely a conveniently-timed election promise at this point. She stated that the NDP will phase out MSP premiums completely.
“The bottom line is that regular people are falling behind under this (Liberal) government,” she noted. “The interests of children, seniors, and working families are not being served by this government and people are, quite frankly, fed up and want change.”
Ross said more than 80 per cent of seniors care homes are not funded to the minimum standards, and wait times to see a doctor are causing suffering.
Ross also reminds people that the Liberals went to the Supreme Court to keep kids from getting the support they need in the classroom. “An entire generation of our kids have missed out on getting the best education they should have received.”