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All Candidates meeting Tuesday, May 3

The stage is set for the Whistler All-Candidates meeting on Tuesday, May 3, hosted by the Whistler Chamber of Commerce, Telus Whistler Conference Centre, and AVW-TELAV Audio Visual Solutions.

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All three candidates currently running in the West Vancouver-Garibaldi riding have confirmed that they will be in attendance – Joan McIntyre of the B.C. Liberal Party, Dennis Stephen Perry of the Green Party of B.C., and Lyle Douglas Fenton of the New Democratic Party of B.C.

The meeting takes place at the Telus Whistler Conference Centre at 7:30 p.m. sharp, and will wrap up by 9 p.m. William Roberts, who organizes the Whistler Forum for Dialogue and the Dialogue Café series, will moderate the meeting.

The candidates will each get five minutes to address the audience, followed by a question and answer period. Questions can be asked of individual candidates, who will have two minutes to answer. Other candidates will be allowed one minute each to respond as well.

"There are only three candidates this year, which should give everyone a good opportunity to get to know the people who are running. The format also leaves most of the discussion up to the people in the audience, so the sky’s the limit," said John Nadeau, president of the Whistler Chamber of Commerce.

As the meeting wraps up, each candidate will be given another two minutes to sum up.

All Candidates meetings will also be held in Pemberton and Squamish.

The Pemberton meeting is on Monday, May 9 at the community centre, starting at 7 p.m. The Squamish meeting is on Tuesday, May 10 at the Sea to Sky Hotel, starting at 7 p.m.

For a closer look at the candidates…

All three candidates in West Vancouver-Garibaldi have agreed to participate in the Whistler Forum for Dialogue, leading three very different discussions.

Joan McIntyre spoke at a well-attended Dialogue Café on Sunday at the Brewhouse on the topic "Four More Years?"

Dennis Perry will appear at "Is It Easy Being Green?" this Sunday, May 1 upstairs at the Brewhouse. The sessions runs from 4 p.m. to 5:30 p.m.

Lyle Fenton will discuss "Are There Average Working People" on May 8, same place, same time.

The referendum on the Single Transferable Vote system will also get some attention with Gene Quan, a member of the Citizen’s Assembly, presenting "Is STV As Easy As 1-2-3? Yes" on Wednesday, May 11 at Blenz, starting at 7:30 p.m.

For voters who consider the environment a priority, the Association of Whistler Area Residents for the Environment is hosting candidates at their monthly meeting on Wednesday, May 4 at the Delta Whistler Village Suites, starting 7 p.m. Candidates will be invited to share their political and environmental platforms. So far Dennis Perry and Lyle Fenton have confirmed.

Campaigns heating up

The campaign for B.C. entered new territory last week with candidates trading barbs and protesters getting into the picture.

To start out the week, Premier Gordon Campbell has been accused by the NDP of deliberately keeping a low profile, running a "boy in the bubble" campaign where he has been isolated from the public and only appears at staged events. The NDP believe that is because the Liberal Party is popular, while the premier is not.

Still, why he has only played to party faithful thus far in his campaign, his remarks are finding their way into the media, and it’s clear that the gloves are off. At the launch of his campaign he called his main competition "hacks" – "They have a team of… failed NDP cabinet ministers and MLAs, big labour bosses and hacks."

While he is on the offensive, it’s clear that as the incumbent Campbell and his government are in for a rough ride from the other parties.

That’s partly the Liberal Party’s own fault.

On Tuesday Campbell admitted that salaries and severance packages for MLAs could be raised again if the Liberals win the election. Campbell said he would ask an independent group to look into the issue, but believes higher salaries are crucial to attract talented people from the private sector.

On the same day the NDP alleged that the Liberal Party was engaged in illegal fundraising by using provincial money to promote the party. Specifically, it was charged that legislative letterhead was used to draw municipal officials in Kitimat to a conference, but once at the conference the attendees were asked to make their cheques out to the B.C. Liberal Party.

The B.C. Liberal Party acted quickly, returning the money. The head of the Skeena Liberal constituency has also resigned over the issue.

Campbell also sought to win over disgruntled public servants by promising to end the wage freeze that has been in place for the past three years. According to Campbell the freeze was a temporary measure to help get the province back on its feet financially.

The B.C. Government and Service Employee’s Union is actively campaigning against the B.C. Liberals, even producing a half hour television show to drive the point home.

The Green Party scored points on northern Vancouver Island this week, after visiting the area and suggesting that plans to build a gas-powered electrical plant on Duke Point should be scrapped. The plant is now being reviewed by B.C. Hydro after an appeal by concerned citizens and industry.

The NDP haven’t had the best start to their campaign, with ghosts of their previous government, which was ousted by Campbell in 2001, following them to every campaign stop. In Campbell River to give a talk about restoring trades apprenticeship program funding, NDP leader Carole James was assailed by a group of 50 protesters representing fish farms. The NDP are opposed to the current practice of open net farming, and would like to see fish farming limited to closed systems.

The heaviest campaigning is going into about two dozen battleground ridings, where the Liberal Party and NDP are running neck and neck, and where voters have been known to change their minds from election to election.

Voters registering in record numbers

Elections B.C. has been successful in its latest voter drive, hoping to turn around declining voter participation since 1980.

In 2001, just 55 per cent of all eligible voters cast ballots, while almost a quarter of registered voters gave election night a pass. About 22 per cent of all eligible voters did not register or participate.

On Tuesday morning, more than 2.7 million people across B.C. had registered to vote. In 2001, just 1,599,765 votes were cast in total.

"This is a record. We have never had so many registered voters in British Columbia," Elections B.C. spokesperson Jennifer Miller told the CBC. "We have over 90 per cent of the eligible voters registered.

"So there’s still only approximately 300,000 voters that aren’t registered. And we’re feeling that this is very successful and that turnout will also go up."

For more information on how to register to vote, visit www.elections.bc.ca.

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