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Chilliwack-Fraser Canyon candidates vow to include Pemberton

Conservative, Liberal, NDP candidates weigh in on challenges facing valley



At least three candidates looking to represent the Pemberton Valley in the House of Commons have vowed to include it as a priority despite its geographical location in the riding.

Pemberton and its surrounding communities lie at the far end of Chilliwack-Fraser Canyon, a federal riding that also includes Chilliwack, Hope, Lytton and Lillooet. It takes a 1.5-hour drive over the Duffey Lake Road to get from Pemberton to the next-nearest community in its own riding.

Nevertheless, candidates running for the Conservative, Liberal and New Democratic Parties assure Pemberton residents they will still factor into their thinking if elected.

Mark Strahl, the Conservative candidate and the son of retiring incumbent Chuck Strahl, stopped into Pique's office on his way to Pemberton on Tuesday afternoon and said he has three ways to connect with constituents.

First is face-to-face interaction in the riding. The second is lobbying for more federal seats for British Columbia because he feels the province is under-represented. The third is using technology to reach out to people.

"One of the things I'm interested in is called a telephone town hall, which allows you to connect with an entire riding, even ones like this that are 30,000 square kilometers in size," Strahl said. "You can touch base with them all at once, so I'd be looking to utilize those sorts of technologies to connect with folks."

Meanwhile Gwen O'Mahony, a Chilliwack resident, community support worker and the candidate for the New Democratic Party, said she's already been engaged in the community because she's been a nominated candidate in Chilliwack-Fraser Canyon since March 2010. She too values face-to-face interaction.

"I determined right away to start off my campaign by going into those far-removed communities such as Pemberton," she said in an interview. "I've been door knocking there three days at least and surrounding areas, D'Arcy, Mount Currie. I headed over to the museum, walked in and chatted with the people.

"Really, the one on one, meeting people at their doorstep or going into local businesses is really the best way to get a feel for a community, and then of course I also called up the mayor and had a nice little chat with him as well."

Diane Janzen, also a Chilliwack resident and the candidate for the Liberal Party of Canada, said much the same thing.

A Chilliwack city councillor and education manager for the Seabird Island Indian Band, she visited Pemberton the day before the election began, and like her fellow candidates she feels it's important to maintain a presence in all parts of the riding.

"As a Member of Parliament, I would commit to spending a good amount of time in Pemberton because issues in Pemberton are not the same as other communities," she said. "For example, Pemberton floods about once every ten years, the entire airport, industrial park and Lil'wat band reserve floods out.

"I believe in (the) phrase, all politics is local. I've been a city councillor in Chilliwack so I understand what it takes to represent people locally."

Jamie Hoskins, the Green Party candidate and a Chilliwack resident himself, did not return calls for comment.

The candidates are currently canvassing and door-knocking all over the riding and it's uncertain at the present time whether an all-candidates meeting will take place in Pemberton.

Representatives from both Mahony and Janzen's campaigns indicated that Pemberton Secondary School is looking to organize a meeting on April 28 but the details have yet to be finalized. A teacher at the school organized such a meeting during the 2008 campaign.