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No value in all-candidates' meetings: Premier's campaign chair

Premier Christy Clark's byelection campaign chair said there are better ways for candidates to spend their time than participating in all-candidates' meetings.

"It winds up with a room full of the converted who come out," said Colin Hansen, the MLA for Vancouver-Quilchena.

"There are very few undecided voters in the room," said Hansen, who has participated in such meetings himself in the past. "Quite frankly in the time it takes to go through an all-candidates' meeting in a riding, a candidate can visit a lot more undecided voters that really have questions they want legitimate answers to."

Asked if he sees the value of such debates, he said, "no."

Clark, who became leader of the BC Liberal Party and premier without holding a seat in the legislature, is running in a May 11 byelection in Vancouver-Point Grey. She has been non-committal on whether she would participate in debates during the campaign.

"I think it's disappointing, but I think it demonstrates Christy Clark is taking this constituency for granted and doesn't care about this community's interests," said David Eby, the New Democratic Party's candidate in the byelection.

Eby said he's accepted invitations to participate in three all-candidates meetings organized by community groups, as well as two debates media outlets are organizing. He said he'll attend the events whether Clark does or not.

"It's critically important in a community like Vancouver-Point Grey to learn what people are concerned about and represent their interests in Victoria," Eby said. "I don't think you can do that if you're not in the community."

Fair Voting B.C. is expecting five of the six candidates will be able to attend a May 3 debate it is organizing, executive director Antony Hodgson said. "The only person we haven't heard back from is Premier Clark's office."

The B.C. Health Coalition said Clark refused their invitation. "Health care remains a top-of-mind issue in BC," said BCHC co-chair Rachel Tutte in a press release. "Why does Premier Clark refuse to outline her plans for our public health care system to Vancouver-Point Grey constituents and to British Columbians?"

"She does have a busy schedule," said Hansen. "She's going to be in the riding a lot, meeting with voters and talking about the issues on the streets and the doorsteps."

In a general election, Clark will debate the leader of the opposition, he said.

Also running against Clark are the Green Party's Françoise Raunet, BC First's Danielle Alie and independents Eddie Petrossian and William Gibbens.

Andrew MacLeod is The Tyee’s Legislative Bureau Chief in Victoria. Reach him here.

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