Premier Clark defends women-only meeting in Vernon

Premier Christy Clark insists open dialogue with British Columbians is vital, even if that means one gender at a time.

Clark met with an invited group of 100 women during a lunch gathering at the Schubert Centre Friday.

“I want to be a premier that listens to B.C. citizens,” she said, adding that a process such as the luncheon creates a better system of governance.

“There were lots of ideas on what we should be doing.”

Among those in the audience were representatives of the business sector, local government, non-profit agencies, education and health care.

Eric Foster, Vernon-Monashee MLA, introduced Clark to the crowd and then he vacated the room and did not take part in the discussion.

Clark defends her rotating provincewide sessions with women by saying they allow for an open discussion on issues of concern. She also insists she is not showing favouritism towards women over her male constituents.

“I meet with men a lot, every day,” she said.

Clark denies the women-only meetings are a result of a recent opinion poll showing that only 21 per cent of B.C. women support the Liberals while 52 per cent endorse the NDP.

“I don’t pay a lot of attention to polls. I put a lot of stock in conversations like this,” she said.

“I want British Columbians to know I am interested in what they say.”

Clark says she is also confident that voters will show confidence in the leadership being provided by the government in the spring election.

Clark’s visit to the North Okanagan came just a few days after Moody’s Investor Service shifted the province’s credit rating from AAA stable to AAA negative.

Moody’s says that move was a result of  lagging economic conditions in B.C. and concerns over debt.

“It’s an important warning,” said Clark.

“If we don’t balance the budget, we lose our credit rating and if we lose our credit rating, we could lose jobs.”

One of the issues discussed Friday was how to promote trades and training as a way of creating employment opportunities in the North Okanagan and across the province.

“We’re creating the jobs here but we’ve got to make sure we have people to fill them. We have to train our kids in the trades,” said Clark, who was also urged to help more women enter trades.

Clark was also brought up to speed on Greater Vernon’s governance structure and the challenges it can provide.

“We have the District of Coldstream, the regional district and the City of Vernon, and it’s squabble, squabble, back and forth,” said Val Trevis, an office manager and former Greater Vernon Chamber of Commerce general manager.

“We can’t even decide where to put a track in the community.”

Clark told Trevis that she would sit down with local MLAs to discuss regional governance.

Health care continues to be a significant focus for North Okanagan residents but  no promises were made about additional acute care beds being opened at Vernon Jubilee Hospital.

Clark says she is well aware of patient overcrowding because of lobbying by Foster.

“Eric is like a dog on a bone,” she said, then joking that, “It’s going to begin soon because I can’t deal with Eric another day on this one.”

A business case to complete the two top floors of the Polson tower for beds was submitted to the Ministry of Health early in the fall.

That process will lead to specific details such as the number of beds, the projected time frame and the estimated cost of the project.


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