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Libs Stand by Shuswap Candidate Whose Firm Broke Federal Law

Greg Kyllo's company was penalized $375,000 for illegal habitat destruction in 2007.

By Andrew MacLeod 23 Apr 2013 | TheTyee.ca

Andrew MacLeod is The Tyee's Legislative Bureau Chief in Victoria. Find him on Twitter or reach him here.

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Kyllo keeps Liberal backing. Party spokesman: 'We were aware of the story at the time of Mr. Kyllo's candidate application.'

The BC Liberal Party is standing by its Shuswap candidate whose company pleaded guilty in 2010 to Fisheries Act violations, but his opponents in the election are questioning his respect for the environment and the laws that exist to protect it.

The Tyee reported April 22 that BC Liberal candidate Greg Kyllo's company was assessed a $375,000 penalty for clearing land near where the Eagle River meets Shuswap Lake without a permit in 2007. Reporter Lachlan Labere had followed the case for the Sicamous Eagle Valley News before Kyllo won the nomination.

"We were aware of the story at the time of Mr. Kyllo's candidate application," said BC Liberal spokesperson Sam Oliphant in an emailed statement. "Mr. Kyllo is an upstanding businessman who employs a number of people in the riding and has been elected to his local council. We are thrilled to have him on our team."

Kyllo was one of people seeking the candidacy and won it on the first ballot, Oliphant said. "(He) has an excellent reputation in the riding as a community leader and community volunteer, and we look forward to him winning the Shuswap riding on May 14."

Also running in Shuswap are Steve Gunner for the BC NDP, Tom Birch for the BC Conservatives and Chris George for the BC Green Party. BC Liberal George Abbott had represented the constituency since 1996.

'Shows disregard': Green candidate

Kyllo's trouble with the Department of Fisheries and Oceans was well known locally, said the Green Party's George.

"It went through our minds, what was the nomination committee thinking of," he said. "This is the type of thing I would think would be sure to come out during an election campaign."

DFO was clear that despite consulting with habitat biologists and other experts from the federal department, the company logged and cleared areas near the shore that were permanently protected under both federal and provincial law. The area was seven hectares to be used for the Old Town Bay development, which was to include residential properties, a marina and other recreational facilities.

"Delta areas like the one involved in this case are of particular importance to juvenile salmonids as they represent safe areas that are rich in food for juvenile fish," said DFO's release. "The Eagle River and Shuswap Lake are habitat for sockeye, chinook, coho and pink salmon, rainbow trout, steelhead, lake char and a variety of other fish, and support commercial, recreational and First Nations fisheries."

"I'm of the opinion you have to respect the rules that are in place," said George, noting the Adams run is one of the most important populations of sockeye salmon in North America. "We can't treat it as if destroying salmon habitat is a cost of doing business... It shows a disregard for the rules."

He said he doubted the BC Liberals will take action on what should be a major embarrassment to the party. "I think any censure is going to have to come from the voters."

Conservative asks, what was learned?

"I think it was very unfortunate that it happened," said Birch, the BC Conservative candidate. "My question in it all is what was learned in that process."

During a recent all candidates' meeting in Shuswap, Kyllo responded to a question about protecting the environment by saying he believed the water in local lakes is "pristine", said Birch, who worked for 20 years in forestry.

"That to me is such a naive response that I wonder if anything was learned in that process," he said. "Anyone who is aware (of the penalty against Kyllo's company) wants to know, 'What are you going to do in the future?' If you think the water is 'pristine', you're not going to do anything in the future."

A healthy environment is essential to the local economy, he said. "If we damage our lakes we'll lose our tourism, jobs, stability, not to mention the beauty of the landscape."

The NDP candidate in Shuswap, Gunner, was unavailable to comment. Nor did a spokesperson at party headquarters respond to a request on the matter.

NDP Leader Adrian Dix has repeatedly said the party will run a positive campaign focused on issues and avoid personal attacks.

Kyllo responded to requests for an interview with an email saying, "A company I had ownership in took responsibility for the issue... We undertook nearly $275K in restoration to fix this issue, and are currently monitoring those results."

He did not respond to an email with follow up questions.

Despite the riding being Liberal since 1996, The Tyee has labelled it "too close to call" in this election.

Birch said Kyllo, who is a District of Sicamous councillor and a major employer in the town, has support from the business community, but that while door knocking he's discovered most people are looking for a change in government. "The general population has abandoned the Liberal party in mass."

Birch said the response on doorsteps and recent polls suggest the race is between himself and the NDP's Gunner.  [Tyee]

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