By Steve Hubrecht, Black Press
The upcoming provincial election taking place this spring just got a little more interesting on a local level, with the entry of a new independent candidate into the race here in Columbia River-Revelstoke.
Longtime Kimberley resident Justin Hooles had been eyeing up the possibility of running as an independent since the start of the new year, and formally announced his candidacy last week, citing his distaste for party politics as the reason he’s choosing to run on his own.
“I’d thought about politics as a long-term future plan for a while, but the more I got involved (Mr. Hooles volunteered with the federal Liberal party during the 2015 election), the more I saw the need for an independent candidate,” Mr. Hooles told Black Press. “The big problem is the parties do a pretty decent job with large scale policies, but when it comes to the local level, they really fail. Local scale issues are just not a high priority for them.”
Mr. Hooles said he’s stepped away from any involvement with the federal Liberals (“they’re far from perfect,” he said) and has no immediate plans to go back, adding “I would way sooner work with an independent candidate of any stripe that with any of the federal parties.”
He said that during the past four years, B.C. MLAs have only voted against party lines twice.
“What you get are elected officials representing their parties to their constituents, rather than the other way around. They’re putting party first. We need somebody to put Columbia River-Revelstoke first. If elected, I can walk the middle ground between the parties, support policies if they makes sense for Columbia River-Revelstoke residents, or call out policies that hurt us,” said Mr. Hooles. “I want to make sure Columbia River-Revelstoke voices are heard throughout the four years (between elections), instead of just once every four years, when they come around to collect your vote. Instead of focussing on left wing or right wing, I want to focus on the constituents.”
For months, the local political race has been dominated by NDP nominee and Invermere mayor Gerry Taft and Liberal nominee and Invermere College of the Rockies campus manager Doug Clovechok (the Green Party and B.C. Conservative Party have not yet nominated candidates or even made clear if they intend to do so), and Mr. Hooles acknowledged that he’s up against some big party machinery, but added that he truly believes he can win the riding.
“I really think I do have a shot,” he said. “I’ve learned how to connect with local residents (during his work with the federal Liberals) and I think people are realizing the need for independent candidates is greater and greater.
Mr. Hooles currently works as a commercial roofer and, in the past, has been a behavioural interventionist, a Wal-Mart department manager and has worked in the local restaurant industry, as well as at local gas stations and 7-11.
His entry not only adds a new element to what so far has been a two-horse race, but also brings a fresh approach in terms of campaign style, with one prominent photo on his website depicting him in a full suit of armour, along with a vow to fight for the constituents of Columbia River-Revelstoke.
Mr. Hooles chuckled when we brought up the armour, saying he owns it because he is a member of the Society for Creative Anachronism (SCA), a group that aims to recreate medieval culture and often hosts Crown tournaments.
“I was hoping it would attract some attention and at least get people to give me a chance, but when I say I’m ready to fight for you, I mean it,” he said.
To learn more about Mr. Hooles and his platform, visit his campaign website at www.justinhooles.ca.