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Clark says she's listening, but disappoints parents' group organizing debate

Premier Christy Clark said she wants to listen to the public, not politicians, during her run in the Vancouver-Point Grey by-election.

That approach is disappointing to Jane Webster, a parent advisory council member at a local school who is organizing an all-candidates meeting scheduled for this evening.

Clark has declined to participate in at least five debates and all-candidates meetings during the by-election period, including one on CKNW radio where she used to work as a talk show host.

"There's a very limited amount of time to be able to conduct the election," said Clark. "There are two priorities that we can engage in. One of them is to make sure I'm talking to people, making sure I'm talking to the public and citizens there. One is to talk to politicians."

She added, "I'm focusing on talking to the people who live in the community, finding out what it is they're concerned about."

Clark said she is going door to door, calling people and participating in telephone town hall meetings. "What you'll hear in a debate is what the politicians think is important," she said. "What you hear when you go door to door or when you talk to people on a telephone town hall or phoning them at their home is you find out what people think is important."

She also noted that she is busy running the province, unlike her NDP opponent David Eby, who took a leave as executive director of the B.C. Civil Liberties Association to run in the May 11 by-election. "Remember, Mr. Eby is a candidate 12, 14 hours a day. That's all he's doing for a living right now, and I can't abandon my post as premier to do that, so I've had to priorize things a little bit."

Clark's absence has been an easy target for Eby, who said he has accepted invitations to all five debates or all-candidates' meetings to which he'd been invited. He recently told The Tyee, "I think it demonstrates Christy Clark is taking this constituency for granted and doesn't care about this community's interests."

Jane Webster, a member of the parent advisory council at Bayview Community School, said Clark's refusal to participate in tonight's event was disappointing and that her reasons for declining made little sense.

"There's going to be a huge crowd of the public at this event," Webster said. "The questions are going to be submitted by the audience members, not the politicians. I don't know where she's coming from on that."

It can be a sacrifice for a community to be represented by the premier, she said, noting former Premier Gordon Campbell was the MLA for the area until he resigned.

"We want someone who will take our concerns to the legislature," she said. "If you're represented by the premier, the premier's always off doing something. It's pretty hard to get any face time with your MLA if your MLA's the premier."

Webster said they would have a symbolic empty chair set up at the meeting for the absent premier Clark.

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

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