LIBERAL LEADER  Accompanied by East Kootenay MLA and Minister of Energy and Mines Bill Bennett, Premier Christy Clark met with members of the Kimberley Chamber of Commerce at Chateau Kimberley on July 11th. Photo by Dan Walton

LIBERAL LEADER Accompanied by East Kootenay MLA and Minister of Energy and Mines Bill Bennett, Premier Christy Clark met with members of the Kimberley Chamber of Commerce at Chateau Kimberley on July 11th. Photo by Dan Walton

By Dan Walton

Pioneer Staff

Premier Christy Clark dipped into the Columbia River-Revelstoke riding last week, meeting with local business owners and party supporters in Kimberley on Friday, July 11th. After joining Minister of Energy and Mines Bill Bennett for a funding announcement in Cranbrook the day before, Premier Clark was invited to a round table discussion with the Kimberley Chamber of Commerce, and made time to attend a BC Liberal party barbecue before returning to the coast.

Her trip was initially planned for the announcement of two incentive programs at the Cranbrook BC Hydro office. With the cost of home heating expected to rise across the province, the programs have been implemented to promote the increase of energy efficiency among low-income earners.

Those eligible to benefit will be families earning less that $57,000 per year in household income about 30 per cent of Fortis customer base. In a partnership through BC Hydro and Fortis BC, the provincial government will be offering free energy savings kits to qualified homeowners, and also up to $6,000 in subsidies to upgrade major appliances.

The announcement yesterday was about doubling the number of people who are eligible for subsidies and refunds for energy efficiency programs, Premier Clark told The Pioneer.

So its environmentally good, and its good for peoples pocketbooks as well.

And only days before her visit, construction began on a BC Hydro project last week on a solar farm at the Sullivan Mine in Kimberley. It will be the largest solar project in Western Canada, and the first solar farm to produce energy for the BC Hydro grid.

The technology is developing very quickly, said Mr. Bennett, adding that the cost of solar energy is dramatically reducing. We invested a million dollars out of the Clean Innovation Fund, and well continue to invest in these new technologies as long as they have some prospect of improving and continuing to get the cost down.

While the premier was in close proximity within the Columbia River-Revelstoke riding, the Kimberley Chamber of Commerce saw an opportunity for a business roundtable discussion.

She was met by about 40 people at the Chateau Kimberley Hotel, who gave Premier Clark a good idea of the issues facing the local riding.

Questions regarding almost every current provincial issue were asked from a local viewpoint from urban deer issues to liquor laws to liquified natural gas. And while some changes were sought, there was also positive feedback shared about favourable impacts by the provincial government, including relaxed liquor laws, the recent decision on the Agricultural Land Reserve, and the governments proactive stance on changes to the Temporary Foreign Worker program.

Following the roundtable discussion, the premier was asked about imposing back-to-work legislation upon teachers if a deal isnt reached before September she said no chance. When asked about private school funding, the premier said she supported the status quo.

A weak public education system would promote a less equal society, she said, but the current formula (covering 50 cents on every dollar of private education) keeps both curriculums ambitious.

Access to a good private system creates good competition between the two, but you want the majority of people to be in public schools, she said. The public schools do a great job.

After the roundtable discussion, the premier was the guest of honour at a Liberal party barbecue at the Kimberley Alpine Resort. She was surrounded by dozens of party supporters, including retired Boston Bruin Johnny Bucyk.

The onerous political challenges that shes overcome since her bid to become party leader were highlighted by Doug Clovechok, Fairmont resident and Region 2 director for the BC Liberal Party.

It was an appropriate segue to allow the premier to deliver a rabble-rousing speech satisfying her supporters with an engaging articulation of her political philosophies.

People said she had zero per cent of winning the leadership; that she wouldnt be able to hold government together; and in 2013, every political pundit told her she had no chance of winning the election, said Mr. Clovechok. And she took it hands down in fact, she gained seats.

B.C.s very fortunate to have her, shes a visionary, and shes able to put her vision into action, he added.