By Andrew Mitchell
This is not Dave Thomas’s first kick of the can.
In 1997 the West Vancouver lawyer ran for Parliament as a member of the divided Progressive Conservative Party, which picked up just 20 seats that year.
In the West Vancouver-Sunshine Coast-Sea to Sky riding, Thomas finished well behind the other conservative in the running, the Reform Party’s John Reynolds, a popular politician who had past experience as an MP and MLA.
Far from souring Thomas on politics, the election inspired him to become more involved and to reunite the right-of-centre Progressive Conservative and Reform parties into a single organization.
“I stayed quite involved, and actually worked quite actively towards the merger that I was in favour of all along,” said Thomas. “In 2003 I got the (Progressive Conservative) nomination again, but when the merger went ahead I stepped aside for John Reynolds and generated support for him as his official agent for the 2004 election. I thought (Reynolds) would retire in 2009 or so, and when he stepped down in the beginning of 2005 it caught me off guard a little and so I gave that election a pass.
“Not too long after that the phone started ringing, from conservatives in the riding who were interested in resurrecting my candidacy to try and win the seat back from the Liberals.”
But first he has to win the Conservative Party’s nomination. He is being challenged by another West Vancouver lawyer, John Weston, who represented the party in last year’s election. The nominee will be determined over the weekend of Jan. 5-7.
Thomas started his own law firm in 1994. In that capacity, representing clients in their dealings with the federal government, he says he has become intimately familiar with the workings of Parliament, as well as the issues that exist between elected officials, ministries and bureaucrats.
“I really understand the disconnect that exists… to create problems,” he said. “Take an issue like the gun registry. Part of the problem is that when the legislation went through the House of Commons there was too much power in the hands of bureaucrats and not enough checks and balances. It’s similar to what happened with the sponsorship scandal, which I attribute to the directionless leadership of Jean Chretien. There was no focus on a direction for the country, and that allowed some bureaucrats to have a field day.”
But while Parliamentary process and mending some flaws he perceives in government are priorities for Thomas, his main issue in the next federal government will be the environment.
“I’ve been saying for the last six months that the environment is my number one issue,” he said. “My campaign team has been urging me not to make it the central focal point of my campaign, and some doubt whether it will be the biggest issue in the next election, but I think it will be the biggest issue, and the issue of global warming. Right now I would be right. Some recent polls have come out that have shown global warming is a bigger concern for Canadians, more so than health care, which is usually the top issue.”
A short-list of issues on Thomas’s website finds that he supports the Canadian mission in Afghanistan as part of NATO and the United Nations, that he thinks Canada needs to start looking at health care systems outside its borders, that Canadians and businesses are still overtaxed, that immigration can help solve Canada’s “demographic crisis” but we should no longer offer passports of convenience, and that same-sex marriage is a done-deal at this point and Canada should move on to other priorities. More details are available at www.davidthomas.ca.
Thomas says his opinions on various issues will be more important in the next federal election, while winning the Conservative Party nomination in January is more a matter of talking to people, signing up new party members and then ensuring those members make it out to vote. By that yardstick, Thomas says he has been working hard the last few months.
He admits that he is probably somewhat of an unknown in the Sea to Sky and Sunshine Coast regions of the riding, where Weston is already known from the federal election last January. However, in the most populated part of the riding, West Vancouver, Thomas is a prominent member of the community. Among a long list of positions, Thomas has been a director of the West Vancouver Chamber of Commerce, president of the Canada-Korea Business Association, a trustee and warden for St. Francis-in-the-Woods Anglican Church, a founding director for Western Residents Association of West Vancouver, a member of the various municipal committees and task forces. He is also active with Big Brothers of Greater Vancouver, a boy scout leader and a youth basketball coach. Thomas put himself through school on basketball scholarships, and played for schools in Europe and Toronto.
Thomas also has a musical background, and played drums for a high school band that included a founding member of 54-40. Actor Nicholas Lea from the CTV series Whistler was also a member of that band. Although he chose a different road, Thomas continues to play music at charity gigs, like the annual Variety Club dance at the Commodore Ballroom, with a band he created called The Surf Lawyers From Mars.
The nomination period for party members gets underway on Friday, Jan. 5 in Powell River and wraps up on Sunday, Jan. 7 in West Vancouver. For Sea to Sky party members the vote will take place at Squamish’s Sea to Sky Hotel on Jan. 6, starting at 5 p.m.