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Independent dark horse
Jon Johnson has driven up from West Vancouver with his wife Audra in order to take part in the Squamish all-candidates debate. The Independent candidate parks his navy blue Jaguar X8 outside the Howe Sound Inn and they bound up the steps to meet me. They know Squamish well; Audra sells her homemade cards at the farmers' market each weekend and is looking forward to the summer market kicking off soon.
He's been in the race for under a week, a surprising fifth candidate who is doing the campaigning on a part-time basis away from his job and paying for his signs and campaign buttons himself.
Squamish is spread thinly over 10km of the Sea to Sky Highway and clings to it on either side; its downtown core is a remnant of the original forestry town and is generally too far off the highway compared with the newer strip malls to compete for drivers who don't know it's even there.
Johnson's plan is to talk to local business owners on Cleveland Avenue, an eclectic several blocks of groovy independent shops and restaurants situated downtown that too few people in the community use. Closures are a hazard, there have been a few, but entrepreneurs are still found who believe in a better future downtown once more people live there.
His approach as an Independent has been to speak to constituents and find out what their needs are.
First stop is The Campfire Grill, where Johnson asks owner Inger McCrea how business could be better promoted and expanded. They talk for 10 minutes about development, traffic, drawing people other than locals to the area. The restaurant is not long opened and it will be their first summer in 2013, they want to build the business.
"We're patient," McCrea tells Johnson. She takes a campaign button.
As does Jacquie Selander across the street at The Hive gift shop. She and Johnson have an animated talk after she asks him what his "shtick" is as an independent. She tries to pin him down on what he stands for and he gives a list: In terms of environmental issues he is not interested in supporting liquid natural gas, IPPs, he wants decent funding for schools and social services.
"I am here to listen to you," Johnson tells Selander. "I want to challenge myself. What does it mean to sit in the legislature and see nothing happen?"
Selander tells him she didn't vote for either the NDP or BC Liberals in 2009. She, too, takes a button.
So there you have it, a taste of this election campaign. Next Tuesday, May 14, it is time to exercise your franchise. Happy voting day!
10 Questions with Jon Johnson:
- Name one thing we don't know about you:
Jazz aficionado — specifically "free" jazz (improvised music).
- Describe yourself in three words:
Practical, problem solver, hilarious.
- Describe this riding in three words:
Landscape-tacular, raw, relaxed
- Apart from politicking, what do you most like to do?
Ride my bicycle to Seattle, cook with my wife and make art, specifically photographic.
- What is your idea of perfect happiness?
Surfing in shorts on a warm sunny day with my wife lounging in her bikini on the sandy beach of somewhere special.
- What books do you have on your bedside table?
Perverse Optimist by Tibor Kalman; Tiny Homes Simple Shelter by Lloyd Kahn; My Nepenthe by Romney Steele.
- What is your greatest achievement to date?
There are a lot of things I'm proud of. The one that has been the most rewarding is the courtship of my wife. One day, I spent eight hours walking from my house in West Vancouver to her house on Oak Street in Vancouver to ask her for a glass of water (I also brought her some flowers).
- Tell us about what you got up to on your last non-work/non-campaigning outing in this riding.
Picnic on the beach in Lions Bay
- Which living person do you most admire?
- What is your motto?
Eat more garlic!