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Clayton under fire at forum

Liberal candidate Maureen Clayton was working hard to defend her party's record during a packed all-candidates meeting at the Roberts Creek Community Hall May 5.

Liberal candidate Maureen Clayton was working hard to defend her party's record during a packed all-candidates meeting at the Roberts Creek Community Hall May 5. In response to criticisms of her predecessor, Harold Long, Clayton insisted her style as MLA would be more hands-on.

"My personal style is not to be 'long gone' or away from the situation," she said.

Green Party leader Adriane Carr, fresh from her debate with Premier Gordon Campbell and NDP leader Carole James, had harsh judgments for both parties' records in government.

She said the Liberals' 25 per cent tax cut has generated a $1.4 billion deficit and the biggest debt in B.C.'s history. She didn't spare the NDP, pointing out that they cut government staff 22 per cent and ordered teachers back to work, the same things they later criticized the Liberals for doing.

"Some people say this election is about defeating the Liberals," said Carr. "Your vote in this riding won't defeat the Liberals and you can only elect one MLA. I am a leader and my voice is strong. The other parties pay attention to what I talk about."

NDP candidate Nicholas Simons, who took some shots over the NDP's fast ferry fiasco, admitted his party made mistakes but pitched himself and James as examples of the "new NDP."

"You can't be everything to everyone," he said. "Vote for somebody with similar values, who can build consensus knowing there are conflicts of opinion."

The crowd, numbering about 200, included many Green and NDP partisans. The questions from the floor grew emotional at times.

Lyn Chapman described how family members lost their government jobs in Liberal cutbacks.

"The problem is, some people paid for whatever economic benefits some people say we now have. When you take away jobs that pay a decent wage from people in our community, you impoverish the community," Chapman said.

Clayton replied, "I'm very sorry for what happened to your family. Unemployment is low. Are they looking for work? Are they employable?"

Chapman left the microphone in tears, saying, "Some people are expendable."

Jim Wakeford, who has AIDS and was wearing a neck brace after spinal surgery, said his medical care was good during his hospital stay, but "there was nothing to eat."

"I want to know what you'll do about malnutrition in our hospitals and in our extended care facilities," he shouted.

Simons said he was almost physically ill when he sampled some nursing home food recently. "We have sacrificed the well-being of people who are in a very vulnerable situation for the almighty buck," he said.

Carr said St. Mary's used to serve fresh, good food from locally purchased ingredients but now serves "frozen food that is unpalatable and inedible and lacking nutrition."

Clayton said St. Mary's has a dietician on staff and is addressing concerns about the new, private food service.

"The food is improving," she said.

Betty Ann Pap, a Sechelt business owner, asked Clayton to explain "how you, such a nice compassionate lady," could support a government that puts big business ahead of people in need.

"I see, personally, more kids using the food bank. Kids should not ever be near a food bank," said Pap.

Clayton replied, "We had to get the financial house in order. Then we can provide essential services."

Clayton maintained that the Liberals have increased education funding and "the health cuts, let me tell you, they didn't really happen." The audience interrupted her with shouts of "shame!" and hoots of sarcastic laughter. "I'm glad you're enjoying this. I'm a stand-up comic, obviously," said Clayton.