Revelstokians had their first chance to meet the Liberal candidate for Kootenay-Columbia last week.
Don Johnston, who was chosen as the party’s candidate in May, was in Revelstoke on June 3–4 as part of his first tour of the riding. Here, he made a few stops around town, met with local party supporters at Zala’s and spoke to Mayor Mark McKee.
Johnston said his goal was to get a sense of the issues facing the riding.
“Between now and the election campaign, I’m hoping to make three complete tours of the riding,” he said. “That’s ambitious because it’s a big riding.”
Johnston grew up in Nelson and is the former CEO of the Columbia Basin Trust and Canada World Youth. He has 40 years of community development work in Canada and abroad.
Johnston has a mountain to climb if he hopes to win the election. The Liberals haven’t been victorious in the region since the 1970s, and the party only got 3.5 per cent of the vote in 2011.
Still, he believes the party’s fortunes here can turnaround — pointing to the unexpected NDP victory in Alberta as signs politics can change quickly. He feels the Liberal Party is best positioned to defeat MP David Wilks, saying they are more likely to pull voters from the Conservative base than the NDP. He dismissed calls to unite the so-called progressive, anti-Conservative vote behind the NDP.
“It will be a challenge but we feel people are open to hearing a message from the Liberals,” he said.
Johnston spoke to many common issues the anti-Harper opposition talks about, such as diminishing democracy, the increasing power of the Prime Ministers Office, and the lack of action on climate change.
“People forget that what they need to look at first and foremost is who is the person we’re electing and are they able to represent that region,” he said. “As a Liberal, if I get elected I can actually represent the people and be supported in doing that.”
Other issues he has raised are:
— A preference for diplomacy over war. “You can’t get involved in diplomacy when your attitude toward international relations is to create an enemies list and a friends list.”
— An independent Supreme Court. “Canada is a country where we understand that the only thing that separates democracy from countries that move increasingly toward autocratic rule is an independent court, and you treat it with respect.”
— Tougher regulations on environmental protection. “What frightens me is how much they [the Conservatives] are muzzling scientists on research issues we are paying for, and I think that is deplorable.”
— More action on climate change. “They are still hiding their head in the sand on carbon issues.”
— Independence for MPs (except in budget votes or votes on things that are in the party’s platform). “David Wilks represents the Conservative Party in the riding. I would represent the riding in parliament.”
— Respect for parliamentary traditions. “Treat question period with the seriousness it deserves and don’t send clowns out to answer with absurd responses to serious questions that have nothing to do with the subject matter and often turn into rants.”
Johnston said he would raise rural issues in Ottawa, and would work to get Federal resources involved in local initiatives. He cited the example of the Columbia Basin Trust.
“I think the MP can get engaged and worked with local leadership, social leadership, civil society and can do a lot to help the process of bringing people together,” he said. “If we can apply federal resources to already support stuff that’s going on rather than create programs and grants for political reasons, I think there’s a lot of power in that.”
With files from the Nelson Star