|Christopher Ashburn, left, looks on as Premier Christy Clark takes part in a speed networking session at the Laurel Packinghouse, part of the Kelowna Chamber of Commerce Business After Hours event attended by about 150 people on Wednesday afternoon.|
"When her office contacted us, it asked if we had an opportunity for the premier to do something beyond the standard speech," said Kelowna Chamber of Commerce CEO Caroline Grover.
"We immediately thought of our Business After Hours reception. It's casual and interactive and makes the premier accessible for our members to chat with."
To start with, Clark joined in what's called the speed networking at the event held at the Laurel Building downtown.
People stand in a circle and have 30 seconds to introduce themselves, what they do and what they like about doing business in the Central Okanagan.
Twenty-nine chamber members went through their spiels and then the premier gave her rousing pre-election campaign elevator pitch.
"I'm a proud colleague of Norm (Letnick, Kelowna-Lake Country MLA and minister of agriculture), Steve (Thomson, Kelowna-Mission MLA and minister of forests) and Ben (Stewart, Kelowna-Westside MLA and minister of citizens services and open government)," she said.
"I believe in the power of free enterprise.
I believe in the power of private business to grow the economy and the community. I believe government should be small and private enterprise should be big. And what I like about the Central Okanagan is there are more entrepreneurs, risk takers and dreamers here than anywhere else in the province. This is the heart of free enterprise."
Big round of applause from all in the room.
In many ways attending a chamber of commerce event is like preaching to the converted for the pro-business Liberal premier.
The crowd was supportive and everyone was genuinely happy to see Clark and get to chat with her, however briefly.
There was only one protester and he stayed outside and paced the sidewalk carrying a sign reading: When are we going to get decent governments?
"We need to talk more to our politicians. They work for us," said Wes Kmet, who described himself as a community activist.
Inside, Dave Kandola from City Furniture and DK Modern Furniture, said he's a Liberal supporter, but admitted the party needs help entering the provincial election campaign.
"I asked her what the plan is," said Kandola.
"She said, of course, it's winnable."
The writ to officially start the campaign for the May 14 election isn't expected until April 16.
But the campaigning has unofficially started in earnest as the premier faces some adversity from her own party and Liberal MLAs and the government fares poorly in the polls.
Greg Salloum of Best Western Inn was the first to talk with Clark one-on-one when the speed networking session was over.
"We know it's going to be a fight to win the election. She said she's a fighter," said Salloum.
Dave Cullen of CTQ Consultants also chatted with premier.
"She can win the election," said Cullen.
"The team she has in Kelowna with the three Liberal MLAs here is as strong as you can get."
When Doris Kotscha of Affordable Web Design buttonholed the premier she didn't bother to talk politics.
"I told her about my business," said Kotscha.
"I can do a website for a business for a third of the price that the firms in Vancouver and Victoria charge."