Premier addresses Delta issues at women's-only luncheon
High-ranking female Delta politicians were on hand when B.C. Premier Christy Clark came to town Friday (Aug. 3) for a women's only luncheon at the Delta Town & Country Inn.
Delta Mayor Lois Jackson and Tsawwassen First Nation Chief Kim Baird were among the attendees at the event hosted by the Delta Chamber of Commerce.
"It's nice to be here in Delta where women are running the show with Mayor Jackson...," Clark said in her opening remarks. "We are taking over, ladies, I hope you know."
Billed as a women's town hall meeting, Clark reassured the audience of approximately 40 local businesswomen and a handful of community activists that there were no men in the room.
"We kick all the men out," said Clark. [We] have gotten rid of the male server and everything. Because I notice conversations happen differently when it's just women in the room."
Before taking questions, Clark touted the BC Liberal party's achievements including a 40 per cent drop in business taxes, 30 per cent drop in personal taxes since 2001 and a job creation record that is second only to Alberta nationwide.
"For me the important thing is to ground those statistics in the reason why they matter," said Clark. "A strong economy builds strong community."
She concluded her introductory remarks by singling out DCC chair Kelly Guichon, who is seeking the Liberal nomination for Delta South.
"Kelly has been one of those glue guys that knits this community together for years and years and years," said Clark. "People in Delta all know that when something needs to be done—and it's going to be hard and it's going to take a long time–phone Kelly Guichon, because she will say yes."
Jackson kicked off the question period by talking about traffic congestion and the projected growth for Delta, Surrey and White Rock.
"I also have to get a plug in for the Massey Tunnel," Jackson told Clark.
On the subject of road safety, the premier commended Jackson for her appointment of Delta Police Chief Jim Cessford, calling him "probably one of the best police chiefs anywhere in the country".
Clark was expected to meet later this afternoon with Cessford to discuss local policing issues.
Heather Colls from Mothers Against Power Poles stood up to take Clark to task on the longstanding issue of upgrading power lines that run through Tsawwassen.
"We all know [former B.C. Premier] Gordon Campbell broke several of the promises," Colls said. "We are going to continue to ensure that whatever political party gets into power continues to protect the children of South Delta."
While appreciating her dedication to making her cause known, Clark told Colls, "I think it's fair to say we disagree about the science on [the power poles]."
Colls, a local teacher, also aired her other bone of contention: the Liberal government's cuts to education.
Clark responded by citing the $200 million the government has set aside for a learning fund, LIFT, to support children who have additional needs in classrooms beginning in September.
There were six or so questions asked during the hour-long session Friday. One of the last came from a Delta businesswoman who told Clark about her struggle to a retain employees with great skill sets because of the commute.
"After they have sat in the [Massey] tunnel for an hour and a half trying to get home – 10, 15, 20 days in a row. And it's been a growing issue," the woman said. These traffic issues have stunted our growth here in Delta."
She is concerned about the use of intersections instead of interchanges along the River Road portion of the South Fraser Perimeter Road, saying her employees are questioning if they will be sitting in traffic once again.
"Message received," said Clark.
Prior to heading into the luncheon, the premier stopped briefly to address the throng of reporters waiting outside.
Clark was asked about the significant rise in spending in the premier's office that included dining out at some of Vancouver's plush restaurants.
She said some of the spending was attributed to hosting other premiers who were in town for meetings.
At the entrance to the hotel's parking lot small group of protesters from the Musqueam First Nation carried signs calling for the protection of a midden in the Marpole area of South Vancouver that is slated for development.
Tsawwassen First Nation Chief Kim Baird, who attended the luncheon, greeted the group and said, "All of our heritage should be protected as much as possible."
At the conclusion of the event Clark left by a back door, avoiding the media who were barred from attending. The quick exit prompted a heated exchange between some reporters and the premier's handlers.
Standing outside afterwards, Baird offered her opinion on the luncheon.
"I think it's awesome [Clark] is trying to connect with women leaders in Delta. I'm not surprised she couldn't come with all the answers to Delta issues," said Baird.