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Liberal leadership contender Kevin Falcon in Castlegar; meets with mayor

Kyra Hoggan
By Kyra Hoggan
February 2nd, 2011

The fourth of six contenders for the B.C. premier’s seat has come to Castlegar – Kevin Falcon, accompanied by Minister of Forests Pat Bell.

More than 30 people were on hand at the Complex Tuesday afternoon to hear Falcon’s pitch to govern the province through what he called the “Three Ls”: listening, learning and leading.

Falcon said he’s not afraid to make the tough, less popular decisions, “if they’re what’s right for the province.”

As evidence of this, he pointed to his pro-HST stance, in which he acknowledged the government’s abysmal job in unveiling the tax, and said he’s looking at pragmatic solutions to the issue such as a one-per-cent reduction now, follwed by another one per cent down the road, bringing the HST down to 10 per cent.

“I still believe the HST is the right thing for this province,” he said.

In response to questions from former Castlegar mayor Mike O’Connor regarding a regional hospital in Castlegar, Falcon pivoted to the issue of regional health districts, and said the district’s evidence and input would be critical to determining whether Castlegar should be the site for a new health facility.

“That work has to be done first,” he said. “It’s not the right decision to build a full-services facility in every community.”

He said how the province as  whole looks at health carehas to change.

“We will never keep up with demand until we start doing things differently,” he said. “If we can control the growth in health care expenditures and control grow the economy faster than the growth in health care expenditures, we can have a sustainable system.”

He pointed to prevention programs and new laws around generic prescription drugs as avenues to reduce spending.

As for his commitment to rural communities like Castlegar, Falcon said he’d look for a cabinet and caucus that were willing to, “get out and about” visiting rural B.C., and said he thinks there should be a premier’s office in the B.C. interior to allow for better citizen access.

 Finally, Falcon repeatedly stresses that this leadership race offers a very rare opportunity to vote directly for the premier of B.C., and encouraged people to get involved.

After the public event, Falcon had a brief sit-down with mayor Lawrence Chernoff, councillor Kevin Chernoff, and city manager John Malcolm.

He said they discussed issues important to the city, such as economic development and industry taxation, but didn’t seek specific commitments from the leadership contender.

“Whoever the premier ends up being, he’ll have two-and-a-half years to help communities in rural B.C. move forward with their goals,” said Lawrence Chernoff. “We’ve let them each know what our priorities are, and I think that’s a good start.”

Categories: Politics

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