Candidates spar over issues

Five candidates looking to represent Kelowna West in Victoria took the stage at Kelowna's Innovation Centre Friday afternoon to discuss their differences.

While the topics were varied, housing affordability was one of the hot button issues.

“I don't know if I'd call it a crisis. I think that it's part of having a successful economy that's created this problem, because the building and construction industry in the cities have been actually caught out where they didn't anticipate the growth,” said BC Liberal candidate Ben Stewart.

Both Green Party candidate Robert Stupka and NDP candidate Shelley Cook disagreed.

“We have a housing crisis and, frankly, over the last four years, the crisis has led to such that we have generations that are being left behind,” Stupka said. “That is a direct result of neglecting the issues that were having in the major centres, in Vancouver and throughout Canada, related to speculation, flipping and foreign ownership.”

ICBC was another timely topic. Attorney General David Eby recently announced the Crown corporation is expected to lose $1.3 billion this fiscal year.

Stewart, whose BC Liberals have been criticized by the current NDP government for mismanaging ICBC, said the issue has been “sensationalized.” He said increased crashes and claims are to blame for ballooning debt.

“They are not necessarily things an insurer can control,” Stewart said. “ICBC has continued to be balanced in its operations over the last 10 years.”

Stupka, Cook and BC Conservative Mark Thompson criticized the previous Liberal government for siphoning hundreds of millions of dollars from ICBC.

“I disagree with the comment that this isn't about fault, particularly since the only reason ICBC is in this position is because in 2010, of which one of the cabinet members is on this panel right now, voted to be able to take money out of ICBC,” Cook said. “How do you make it better? You stop using it as a piggy bank.”

Libertarian Kyle Geronazzo proposed doing away with ICBC all together, saying "government never had business dealing with auto insurance."

The byelection will take place on Feb. 14. 

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