Liberal candidate expects to feel the heat

BC Liberal byelection candidate Laurie Throness undaunted by what's expected to be a tough all-candidates meeting

BC Liberal byelection candidate Laurie Throness says he plans to attend an all-candidates meeting Thursday organized by the Chilliwack Teachers Association.

Even though the 7 p.m. meeting at Sardis Secondary is bound to be a minefield for Throness as the contract dispute between teachers and the BC Liberal government continues to be a hot-button issue.

“I’m going to go,” Throness said resolutely in a Tuesday telephone interview. “I don’t expect bouquets of roses.”

But there are others who also have the BC Liberal candidate in their sights, and the Thursday night meeting may be their only chance to have a go at him as it appears to be the only venue open to the general public during this byelection.

But Throness said that’s the reason he wants to be at the all-candidates meeting on Thursday.

“I want to be the MLA for all the residents of Chilliwack-Hope,” he said, not just those who agree with BC Liberal government policies.

Opponents of a gravel mining plan at the Fraser Valley Regional District are hoping to make it a byelection issue for all the candidates, which include NDP Gwen O’Mahony, BC Conservative John Martin, and Libertarian Lewis Dahlby.

But residents unhappy with the plan view the BC Liberal government as the main culprit in reaching the agreement with the gravel industry.

They see themselves as shut out of the five years it took to negotiate the agreement, and shut out again this week from a meeting at the regional district with the gravel industry to “refine” the maps where mining will be allowed in the region.

Abbotsford-Mission MLA Randy Hawes, who initiated the Aggregate Pilot Program, said those maps will be taken to public hearings, but residents question how much they will be able to change maps.

The BC Liberal candidate will also be the target for a Rosedale resident who discovered a farm property across the street may be removed from the Agricultural Land Reserve.

Susan Payne says the Tycrop plant on McGrath Road has announced plans to expand, yet has not “secured the site” with an approval from the Agricultural Land Commission to remove the property, also on McGrath Road, from the ALR.

Adding to her suspicions, Payne said the plant was visited recently by BC Premier Christy Clark and Throness, and Chilliwack MLA John Les has also mentioned his friendship with the plant’s owner in the legislature.

“Is there a deal behind closed doors?” she asked.

Tycrop officials were not available for comment this week, but an employee at the plant said they would be happy to talk about expansion plans next week.

City of Chilliwack planning staff said Tycrop has filed a notice of application for exclusion from the ALR, but has not yet submitted the application with details of the proposed land use.

Throness was reluctant to discuss details of what the owners have told him about their expansion plans, but he pointed out that an “independent commission,” not the government, decides what properties come out of the land reserve.

“Tycrop will have to jump the hoops just like everyone else … there are no special favours for anyone,” he said.

rfreeman@theprogress.com

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