By Eric Elliott, Black Press
District of Invermere Mayor and small business owner Gerry Taft has been named as the representative of the BC NDP to represent Columbia River-Revelstoke in the upcoming 2017 provincial election.
“I am very grateful for the support I received from members across the constituency,” he said, following the vote count. “It’s very exciting and a little bit scary. A lot of work has gone into working on this and I’ve kind of indicated that the next step is working on the provincial election and trying to ensure that the Columbia River Revelstoke seat remains an NDP seat.”
The announcement came on Saturday afternoon after Mr. Taft garnered the majority of NDP member’s support throughout the riding, which was announced in Golden at the party’s nomination convention. Taft is currently the owner of Gerry’s Gelati Café, with locations in Invermere and Radium, as well as the Stolen Church Coffee Co. He entered municipal politics at the age of 20 and is currently in his third term as mayor of Invermere.
Taft’s main competition will be BC Liberal candidate Doug Clovechok, who was defeated by current MLA Norm Macdonald in the 2013 election.
Macdonald, who has been the representative for the riding since 2005, endorsed Taft and will be working with him throughout his campaign before Election Day on May 9, 2017. Taft said working with Macdonald has been a great experience so far and could give him an upper edge as Election Day looms closer.
“Leading up to this, Norm’s been a huge mentor and provided a lot of inspiration and I really look forward to the opportunity to work beside him over the next number of months to learn more about ropes and more about positions and the issues in the various communities throughout the riding,” he said, noting that he’s going to try to continue some of the work that Macdonald has already done.
“Continuing the style of politics that Norm McDonald has already had and being a really effective voice for local people and that means not just representing Victoria back to the ridings but representing local interests to government and trying to have influence both within the party and provincial government.”
With that said, Taft said he understands that there is a lot of work to be done in the coming months to win over voters who are looking to pick the riding’s first new MLA in over a decade. For he and his team, that starts by making stops throughout the riding with Macdonald in Kimberley (Oct. 27), Revelstoke (Oct. 25) and Invermere (Oct. 28) to learn more about the issues locally that voters care about.
“I think a really constant theme that I think is going to be very important for our region is around global decision making and the ability for local residents to be involved in setting their own destiny and setting their own course in making decisions in their own communities that affect them and not having to have things decided in Victoria imposed on them,” he said.
Taft said that while he’s going to be running for provincial office, he stresses the importance of a local MLA advocating for the region to help local communities achieve what they can as he did as mayor of Invermere, working to get a $2 million grant for the new multi-use currently centre under construction.
With the race now on for the new MLA of Columbia River Revelstoke, Taft said he is expressing his thanks to endorsers and nominators who showed faith in him before getting started on his campaign.
“We have a lot of work ahead of us as we build our campaign team across the region, and that work starts today.”