The candidates and their campaigns are making one final push before the Chilliwack-Hope byelection on April 19.
Advanced polls ran Wednesday to Saturday last week in which 3,220 ballots were cast, according to Elections BC. That's up 12 per cent from the 2,884 advanced poll votes in the 2009 general election.
There has been provincewide media attention in what many are calling a three-way race that could serve as a barometer on the BC Liberal government before the 2013 general election. But byelections tend to garner low voter turnout.
In the high-profile VancouverPoint Grey byelection last year in which Premier Christy Clark won her seat in the Legislature, voter turnout was 39 per cent, down from 56 per cent for the 2009 general election.
There was only one public all-candidates meeting organized during the local byelection. That meeting was held at Sardis secondary last Thursday.
McAstocker Theatre was standing room only as more than 150 constituents attended, many to ask detailed questions on topics of special interest.
From kidney dialysis to raw logs to farmed fish to oil pipelines, many questions were directed to Liberal candidate Laurie Throness who was asked to defend his party's policies.
Heckling, applause and laughter were common as candidates Throness, Conservative John Martin and New Deemocrat Gwen O'Mahony at times angered, amused and provoked the crowd.
Libertarian candidate Lewis Dahlby was not in attendance.
The meeting was organized by the Chilliwack Teachers Association (CTA) and was moderated by CTA president Katharin Midzain.
Throness began by talking about what he has heard knocking on doors about the dispute with teachers. He said "by far" what he has heard the most is taxpayers unhappy with higher taxes.
"Make no mistake," Throness said. "I'm not here applying to be part of the union, I'm here applying to be part of management."
Martin began by suggesting the province was at "a historic crossroads," and that there is big change in the wind.
"We have a government in freefall," Martin said. "Clearly this government is on the wane. . . . Really there is not much more on their agenda than survival."
O'Mahony said that her opponents are good at fingerpointing and making excuses, but she wants to take the "high road," and focus on solutions.
ON BILL 22
Midzain talked about Bill 22, suggesting its name, the Education Improvement Act, was "misnamed at best." The CTA president asked the candidates what needed changing in the bill.
Throness said nothing about Bill 22 needed to be changed, and that given the government signed net-zero contracts with dozens of other unions,
which include "me-too" clauses, the teachers could not be given anything more without costing the government billions of dollars.
Martin said while he sees the BC Teachers' Federation as extremely difficult to deal with for any government, the BC Liberals tearing up of contracts was unconscionable.
O'Mahony said Bill 22 shouldn't have existed in the first place, and she questioned how Martin could "insult the union" while talking about fair negotiation.
Throness suggested an NDP win was "the danger of the split" of small 'c' conservative votes in the riding.
Martin asked if the Liberals end up finishing behind the Conservatives on April 19, would Throness admit his party was the one splitting votes.
O'Mahony said the NDP won't respond to negative attacks, and said that her party hadn't created any attack adverstisements.
ON A KIDNEY DIALYSIS UNIT IN CHILLIWACK
Martin said it was an economic situation and there wasn't enough population.
Throness said there is a full dialysis unit in Abbotsford and, before that was put in place, patients had to go all the way to New Westminster.
O'Mahony said there is a need to expand kidney dialysis so "why not Chilliwack?"
ON SUPPLY MANAGEMENT FOR AGRICULTURE
O'Mahony said it "suits our needs very well."
Throness said: "There is one farm in Chicago that produces enough chickens for all of Canada." He said supply management was needed to protect Fraser Valley farmers.
Martin said he was reluctant to speak on federal matters but said he was "uncomfortable" with quotas.
? Voting in the April 19 byelection runs from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. Voting locations are as follows:
1. Agassiz Agricultural Assn. Hall, 6800 Pioneer Ave., Kent.
2. Canyon Lanes Bowling Alley, 47585 Trans-Canada Hwy., Boston Bar.
3. Chilliwack Fish & Game Protective Assn, 48685 Chilliwack Lake Rd., Chilliwack.
4. Cultus Lake community school, 71 Sunnyside Blvd., Cultus Lake.
5. East Chilliwack elementary school, 49190 Chilliwack Central Rd., Chilliwack.
6. Harrison Hot Springs Memorial Hall, 290 Esplanade Ave., Harrison Hot Springs.
7. Harrison Mills Community Hall, 1995 School Rd., Kent.
8. Head of the Lake school, 28 In-Shuck-Ch FSR, Skookumchuck.
9. Mt. Slesse middle school, 5871 Tyson Rd., Chilliwack.
10. Promontory Heights community school, 46200 Stoneview Dr., Chilliwack.
11. Rosedale traditional community school, 50850 Yale Rd., Chilliwack.
12. Royal Canadian Legion 228, 344 Fort St., Hope.
13. Ryder Lake Fire Hall, 49285 Elk View Rd., Chilliwack.
14. Silver Creek elementary school, 63832 School Rd., Hope.
15. Tzeachten First Nations Hall, 45855 Promontory Rd., Chilliwack.
16. Watson elementary school, 45305 Watson Rd., Chilliwack.
17. Yale Community Centre, 65050 Albert St., Yale.