B.C. ELECTION 2017: Incumbent focus of attack on school closures during Penticton all candidates forum - InfoNews

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B.C. ELECTION 2017: Incumbent focus of attack on school closures during Penticton all candidates forum

Penticton candidates incumbent B.C. Liberal Dan Ashton, B.C. Green Party Connie Sahlmark, and B.C. NDP candidate Tarik Sayeed squared off in an all candidates debate at the SS Sicamous, Tuesday, April 25, 2017.
April 26, 2017 - 12:53 PM

PENTICTON - Judging by audience reaction, there was not a clear favourite at last night’s Penticton all candidates forum, but the two challengers nonetheless found common ground in an attack on the provincial government’s education record.

B.C. Liberal candidate and incumbent MLA Dan Ashton, B.C. Green Party candidate Connie Sahlmark and B.C. NDP candidate Tarik Sayeed squared off in the debate hosted by the Penticton and Wine Country Chamber of Commerce at the SS Sicamous last night, April 25.

A couple of testy exchanges occurred during a question about education, as Sahlmark and Sayeed attacked the Liberal government's record.

Moderator and Chamber President Neil Wyper asked how each party would support education, noting declining enrolments in the South Okanagan.

Ashton said it was a shame the school closure issue had to happen, but noted the Penticton School District had seen a decrease of 1,900 students since 2000, 600 fewer students in the last five years.

“It’s a shame. We need people here with jobs, with families to keep these schools full,” he said, adding a terrific amount of money had been spent on education.

Ashton also referred to the recent Supreme Court decision siding with B.C. teachers' right to negotiate classroom conditions saying it wasn’t his way of conducting politics.

“The amount of money going into education has never been seen before. Is it enough? That is the question to be answered,” he said.

The Green Party's Sahlmark took the opportunity to attack Ashton, accusing him of stepping up at the last minute.

“It was a real shame the community had to be divided and the school board had to be undermined like that,” she said to a round of applause.

Sahlmark went on to say the province had to have good leadership, respecting education and teachers.

“To sue teachers in Supreme Court for how many years? How much money did that cost the taxpayers to take them to court and sue them? That would have bought a lot of education I bet,” she said to more applause from the audience.

The NDP's Sayeed also took the opportunity to take the government to task.

“Where was the funding when we were so fortunate to have teachers? Also, where was our MLA when all was happening? He didn’t show up for anyone. This is fact based. I was there for all of them,” he said. “We must do better and the NDP will do just that."

Ashton told Sayeed he needed to check his facts regarding his attendance at school board meetings, adding Sayeed’s remarks were not true.

A series of 15 questions were posed to the candidates, covering a broad spectrum of regional and provincial issues. For the most part, candidates were well prepared to speak about their party’s position on the issues.

The provincial election takes place May 9.

To contact a reporter for this story, email Steve Arstad or call 250-488-3065 or email the editor. You can also submit photos, videos or news tips to the newsroom and be entered to win a monthly prize draw.

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