Candidates from two Central Okanagan ridings took turns criticizing the B.C. Liberal record of childcare and poverty at an all-candidates forum in Rutland Thursday evening. None of the Liberal candidates were there to defend their party.
The forum was hosted by Community Action Toward Children's Health, a local organization that works to improve early childhood development in the Central Okanagan.
The forum included an introductory period, followed by a chance for candidates to answer questions relating to youth and family poverty, children in foster care and affordability, among other topics.
Christy Clark, Liberal candidate for Kelowna-West, was absent from the forum, and organizers said she didn't respond to their invitation. All other candidates in the Kelowna-West riding were in attendance.
“There's tons (of money) for health care, there's tons for childcare, there's tons for education,” said independent candidate for Kelowna-West Brian Thiesen. “The problem is it's being siphoned from people's pockets by the people who are not here tonight for the people who paid for their campaigns.”
Steve Thomson, incumbent Liberal candidate for Kelowna-Mission, was also not in attendance, while the other three candidates from the Kelowna-Mission riding were.
While candidates for the Kelowna-Lake Country riding were invited Thursday, the Lake Country Chamber of Commerce was holding an all-candidates forum at the same time.
A representative for Alison Shaw, Green Party candidate for Kelowna-Lake Country, spoke at the Rutland event on her behalf.
NDP candidates Harwinder Kaur Sandhu and Shelley Cook, running in Kelowna-Mission and Kelowna West respectively, touted their party's $15-per-hour minimum wage and $10-per-day child care promises as partial solutions to the province's poverty issues, while Green Party candidate Robert Mellalieu, running in Kelowna-West, talked about his party's plan for a basic livable income that would provide all citizens with “enough money to survive.”
Meanwhile, independent candidate Thiesen said raising the minimum wage would simply cause the price of goods to increase, or force employers to eliminate low-wage jobs in favour of automation.
At one point during the forum, B.C. Conservative candidate Chuck Hardy singled out a person in the crowd, who he thought was laughing at him.
“Do you want to come and speak?” he said while pointing. “You at the back with your hand over your mouth, you're laughing at us, come on up and speak. Come on, stand up.”