The provincial election campaign finally made its way to the Lower Similkameen this week with a visit from Premier Christy Clark on Wednesday, May 1, followed by an all candidate’s meeting at Victory Hall on Thursday, May 2.
Four of five candidates on the ballot for the May 14 election participated in the meeting. Missing was Doug Pederson, one of two independent candidates running in the Boundary – Similkameen riding.
Candidates were each given three minutes for opening remarks, who then introduced themselves to approximately 60 people in the audience.
John Kwasnica, Green Party-
The Oliver resident works as a residential care worker for a non-profit organization. He has provided volunteer service to his community through the fire department and in the development of Oliver’s hike and bike path.
As Green Party candidate, Kwasnica spoke of the issue of climate change, describing his intent to “gather solutions from you to put together a better plan for a sustainable economy.”
Kwasnica advocated clean energy jobs, local control and administration of social and health services and lower taxes.
“Global warming is a bigger threat than our current economic imbalance,” he warned.
Sam Hancheroff, NDP
A resident of Kaleden, Hancheroff has been a lifelong resident of the riding, his former career as a District 53 school teacher having given way in retirement to work as a school trustee and a director with Kaleden’s irrigation district.
Citing the need for a change in government, Hancheroff said his government’s policy would emphasize better education and skills training, as well as farm and orchard assistance, which would include replant support and marketing programs.
Linda Larson, Liberal
Larson said that her government would support policies that encourage business and investment. She spoke of the need to balance budgets, with emphasis on health and skills training. Larson further described the need for “better budget management.”
Her government would not support the national park proposal in its present form, giving creedence instead to the Land Use Management Plan, createrd and managed at the local level.
Her government would prioritize rebuilding a business economy and development of the province’s natural resources.
Mischa Popoff, Independent:
Describing himself as a “small c conservative” along the lines of Tommy Douglas, Popoff accented the need to pay down provincial debt, bring the budget under control and develop our natural resources.
“Why vote for me, an independent?” he rhetorically asked the audience. “What can I do for you?
I can do whatever you want,” he replied, describing his candidacy as an independent voice not subject to scrutiny or censorship by party lines.
“Who likes paying carbon taxes, Fortis hikes and the like?” he asked, “Why elect representatives to go to Victoria to be whipped into line by their parties?” Popoiff urged voters to consider sending an independent voice to Victoria.
Moderator Carroll MacLean then asked the candidates about their personal knowledge of the area.
Linda Larson noted the recent failed referendum on the water reservoir.
“I thought it was a good idea,” she said of the proposal.
Larson also noted the park issue, organic agriculture, wineries and Keremeos’ many empty downtown storefronts.
“It’s the same everywhere, “ she said, noting that Oliver also had many empty storefronts.
Mischa Popoff commented on the area’s “niche market” in organic agricuture, adding that the bread and butter of agriculture in the area was non-organic agriculture. He noted that the national park issue was a big issue due to the loss of sovereignty of a large piece of real estate to the federal government. Popoff insisted that the region remain focussed on agriculture, seeing tourism as a fickle economic resource becaused of its cyclical nature.
John Kwasnica told the gathering that he like Keremeos, having recently participated in the work party at the Grist Mill. He expressed familiarity with the area’s expertise in organic agriculture, and like Liberal candidate Larson, agreed that Keremeos’ empty storefronts were a “universal phenomenon”. Kwasnica commented on the rustic aspects of the Keremeos’ downtown theme.
He also noted the national park as a contentious issue, but informed the audience that statistics show eight dollars of economic activity generated for every dollar spent at Canada’s other national parks.
Sam Hancheroff said that he was connected to the Similkameen over the years first as a teacher, then as school trustee in District 53.
“Agriculture is at the heart of our families,” he expressed, adding that empty storefronts were an issue. He also commented on local awareness of water issues, noting that human resources are shared between Keremeos and Kaleden’s irrigation districts.