An appearance by B.C. Premier Christy Clark at a Delta Chamber of Commerce-hosted, women only luncheon on Friday (Aug. 3) has at least one local political figure crying conflict of interest.
Just businesswomen were invited to attend the ticketed event at the Delta Town & Country Inn which is being billed as a “town hall style of discussion” – and is not open to the media. And DCC chair Kelly Guichon, who plans to introduce the premier at Friday’s luncheon, has publicly announced her intention to run for the nomination of the BC Liberal party in Delta South.
Nominated Delta South NDP candidate Nic Slater is speaking out against the event, saying the chamber should not be hosting forums cloaked in secrecy.
“The Chamber of Commerce is supposed to be a community-based group,” said Slater. I believe in the idea of full transparency. I think it’s partisan politics is what it is. I think [Clark] needs to work within the public view and I don’t think it’s appropriate that she use a public group to promote her own candidacy.”
Delta South’s current MLA, independent Vicki Huntington, finds it a little strange the media have been shut out of the event.
“I don’t think that’s appropriate, particularly when it’s being sponsored by the chamber,” said Huntington, who will be in attendance Friday. “Of course it’s worthwhile to have the media there when the premier is in town, especially when it’s being billed as a town hall meeting.”
Huntington speculated Clark might not want reporters exposed to potential critical commentary at the event, which is expected to explore issues and opportunities for women in business. One area of contention she cited was the small business corporate tax rate not being lowered in the last provincial budget.
“That has been disappointing,” said Huntington.
She also questioned why the premier is coming to Delta with Minister of Children and Family Development Mary McNeil in tow.
“To me it sounds like they don’t know what they want to accomplish [at the meeting],” said Huntington.
BC Conservative Party leader John Cummins is calling Clark’s closed door forum in Delta “an unusual way to grow a party and gain support.”
“It suggests something that there is a certain exclusiveness about things,” said Cummins.
He is also questioning why the Delta Chamber would agree to host a public event that excludes the media from attending.
“My experience with chambers [of commerce] has always been that they are open, media is invited and they have nothing to hide,” said Cummins.
He also believes it’s not the businesswomen at the meeting who would be afraid of the media.
“I think that it’s not so much the audience that would be intimidated. I think it’s the premier,” said Cummins.
“It seems that whenever there is a public event lately she has sort of spoken of turn and misstated herself and gotten herself into hot water. And I would suggest that it has more to do with protecting the premier then it does with concern about the attendees.”
The premier’s press secretary Michael Morton said the town hall meeting—which is one of a handful the premier is hosting around the province this week—is an opportunity for Clark to meet with local businesswomen and hear about their issues.
When asked about the media’s exclusion from the discussion, said Morton, “people are more apt to be frank when there is not a lot of media attending and that is what the Premier would like.”
Morton added there will be an opportunity for the South Delta Leader to ask the premier questions after the luncheon.
Meanwhile, DCC executive director Peter Roaf offered a contrary comment about Guichon’s status as a candidate for the Liberal party’s nomination.
“My understanding is that the chairman of our board [Guichon] is not running for the riding,” said Roaf. “If for some reason she is still running she would not be participating in introducing the premier.”
However, Guichon has confirmed to the Leader she is still seeking the local Liberal party nomination, but maintains the chamber’s integrity is not being compromised.
“I’m not the nominated candidate so I don’t see the conflict of interest anyway,” said Guichon, adding it’s her role as chair to introduce any guest speaker of the DCC.
The timing of the event is also being called into question. Huntington said she heard Delta was chosen for the women’s town hall meeting because of a cancellation. Guichon believes Delta has been on the list for quite some time. Meanwhile, the premier’s office is saying the event was set up about a week ago.
Also, the riding association for the Delta South BC Liberals announced Monday the group will be holding a policy forum “meet and greet” barbeque and workshop at the Earthwise Garden Red Barn as part of their efforts to build a vision for South Delta.
Nomination of a candidate to represent the party is expected in the coming months.