The gloves are off, the bell's been rung - the provincial election has officially kicked off in West Vancouver-Sea to Sky.
Candidates for three parties running in the May 12 election squared off at the new Pemberton Community Centre Wednesday night, and it didn't take long for all three to aim pointed jabs at each other's parties.
Joan McIntyre, the incumbent Liberal MLA for the now-extinct West Vancouver-Garibaldi riding, was first on the attack, blasting the record of the NDP, which governed British Columbia from 1991 to 2001.
A sparse audience, owing to a Vancouver Canucks playoff game happening at the same time, heard McIntyre describe why she sought the Liberal nomination in 2005.
"I was impressed by the recovery plan that was conceived and executed by the B.C. Liberal team following a decade of decline under the NDP's watch," she said. "A decade in which B.C. became a have-not province for the first time and a decade of spending that threatened to unfairly burden the next generations."
She then moved on to tout the Liberal record, including the carbon tax, "unprecedented labour peace," and the "new relationship" with First Nations.
"I even recall (Green candidate) Jim Stephenson actually publicly endorsing our premier's climate action plan," she said. "Now the NDP platform has elicited outcries from environmentalists asking not to dismantle the carbon levy or our climate action plan, for both environmental and job loss reasons."
Both Stephenson and NDP candidate Juliana Buitenhuis followed up with shots of their own. Stephenson trashed the concept of "public-private partnerships," public facilities built and/or operated through partnerships between government and the private sector.
"We are governed by an ideological political party which sees the private sector as the solution to every challenge and which continues to negotiate private-public partnerships with its business supporters," he said. "There is increasing suspicion that PPP might stand for public-private plundering."
Buitenhuis, sitting next to McIntyre, laughed at Stephenson's comment. A counsellor who works with Squamish Nation youth, Buitenhuis said she came into politics after serving as a member-at-large for Local 303 of the British Columbia Government and Service Employees' Union.
She began by acknowledging that the meeting was taking place on the traditional territory of the Lil'wat First Nation, then raised her hands in a traditional gesture of thanks. McIntyre followed suit.
A resident of Horseshoe Bay, Buitenhuis said the provincial government must "give B.C. back to its residents."
"I never thought that the democratic right to a public forum would be taken away with the amendment of Bill 30 that abolished local zoning authority so that communities lose the necessity to hold a public forum," Buitenhuis said.
"There are over 60 water licenses trying to be applied right now in the Squamish-Lillooet (Regional) District and community members have no say over that."
McIntyre stared intently at Buitenhuis as she attacked the Liberal record.
Questions from the audience ranged anywhere from queries about infrastructure funding to the environment to the economy.
One audience member asked McIntyre what projects the B.C. Liberals had funded in the Pemberton region while in government. McIntyre mentioned wells, dyking as well as Olympic LiveSites in both Pemberton and Mount Currie.
Stephenson responded sarcastically: "I would just observe that I think Joan held up very well in the face of such a probing question." There were scattered laughs among the audience, including from Pemberton Mayor Jordan Sturdy.
Stephenson later criticized his own party's platform in response to a question about new electricity sources. A member of the audience asked how the Green Party will power electric cars when it plans to phase out imports of coal-fired electricity and end development of run-of-river hydro projects.
Stephenson said the people who drew up the Green Party platform have set a target for phasing out big hydroelectric plants a century from now - a commitment he's "a little skeptical" about.
"The proposal to phase out the big hydroelectric plants, I believe, is set for a century from now," he said. "I talked a little bit to the people who put that together and I can't figure out if they're thinking that fusion will be available at that point or what they have in mind.
"I'm a little skeptical of that objective 100 years out."
McIntyre then said that the Greens have a "utopian" vision for solving climate change and that it's following a "naïve reliance" on the idea that the economy can be run on conservation.
In the 2005 election McIntyre won the West Vancouver-Garibaldi seat with 11,090 votes. The Green Party's Dennis Perry came second, taking 5,778 votes. Lyle Fenton of the NDP came third with 4,536 votes.