The former mayor of Cranbrook will attempt to unseat MP David Wilks in the riding of Kootenay–Columbia.
Wayne Stetski, who spent his career working for BC Parks and the BC Ministry of the Environment, before entering local politics, is running for the New Democratic Party in the 2015 federal election.
“I truly believe in public service,” he said when asked why he was running. “I’ve spent my whole life serving the public and I think this is a way I can help the constituents here in the Kootenay-Columbia riding.”
Stetski faces an uphill battle in attempting to unseat Wilks, who won the seat by almost 10,000 votes in 2011, and who’s Conservative predecessor Jim Abbott held the seat for 18 years.
Stetski was a manager for BC Parks from 1980–2002 before becoming the regional manager for the Kootenays for the BC Ministry of the Environment until 2009. He ran for mayor of Cranbrook in 2008, losing out by 200 votes. He ran again in 2011, this time emerging at the top of the polls.
As mayor, he said he focused on the non-core roles of municipal government like arts, multiculturalism, accessibility, and support for youth and seniors.
“I look at it as a holistic approach to managing the community and a willingness to put taxpayer dollars into more than the fundamental roles of municipal government,” he said.
Stetski was unsuccessful in his 2014 re-election bid, losing by more than 1,000 votes despite increasing his own vote count. Still, he said he was proud of his record.
After losing the election, Stetski wrote himself a letter asking himself the reasons he should run federally for the NDP. “The answer came very clearly and very quickly that under Harper’s Conservative government, I’m starting to miss the Canada that I know and love,” he said.
Stetski came up with four main issues while writing his letter:
— The changing role of the military away from peacekeeping, and the treatment of veterans.
— The cuts to the CBC. “I think we need more country building, not less,” he said.
— Lack of democracy in Ottawa. “It’s the fact that under the Conservative Harper government, every vote in Parliament is a whipped vote where you do what the PM and cabinet tell you to, no matter what the constituents feel back home,” he said. “That needs to change. We need an MP that will truly be a voice for the people of the Kootenays.”
— Cutbacks to environmental programs. “You need a sustainable environment to have sustainable economy,” he said. “The two need to go hand-in-hand as priorities.”
Stetski said he opted to run for the NDP because the party’s priorities align with his own. He added they also stand the best chance of defeating the Conservatives in the riding, particularly with the addition of the Nelson area.
He took Wilks to task for his 2012 comments saying he couldn’t vote against the omnibus budget bill without the support of 12 of his Conservative colleagues, even if his constituents were opposed to it.
“I think one of the fundamental questions going forward — who is going to best represent the concerns, the issues in Ottawa and make sure the voices of the Kootenays are heard?” Stetski said.
He said the big issues for the riding were highway improvements, the economy, and wages. He said the minimum wage should be raised gradually to $15 per hour, to make it closer to a living wage. He also said he would fight against federal downloading of services.
“I want to make sure the federal government is taking on the roles and responsibilities they should be on all of these issues,” he said.
Stetski said he will be travelling the constituency from now until the election, which is set for Monday, Oct. 19.
“I intend to be out there around the riding, meeting with people, inviting them to come to a local coffee shop and tell me what’s on their mind, and make sure once I’m elected those priorities are the ones I take to Ottawa,” he sad.