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Election 2013: The race to represent

Five candidates, four weeks. The provincial election is coming to an end and on May 14 voters will choose the new MLA for West Vancouver-Sea to Sky.



We're in the final week of the 2013 provincial election. Five candidates are wooing voters in the hopes of being selected to represent West Vancouver-Sea to Sky in British Columbia's legislature — but no matter who wins it is clear that in many ways the riding itself is the star.

West Vancouver-Sea to Sky is huge. It covers an odometer-crushing 9,868 sq. km, starting in Dundarave on the North Shore and ending near D'Arcy well into the interior; the contenders must travel great distances to meet some of the 37,021 voters who are registered with Elections BC for the May 14 poll.

Keeping up with BC Liberal Jordan Sturdy, the NDP's Ana Santos, BC Conservative Ian McLeod, Green Richard Warrington and Independent Jon Johnson as they ping-pong around the riding is a time-consuming exercise that challenges my Toyota Yaris. I clock up almost 600 km in little over a week.

The variety in West Vancouver-Sea to Sky is almost ridiculous. There is the privileged urban, found in wealthy West Vancouver (with 9,685 registered voters in 2013). There is Bowen Island, part of the Islands Trust (2,501 voters). There is small-town Squamish going through sometimes-painful struggles from forestry-based industry to Vancouver satellite to "Canada's Recreation Capital" (12,959 voters).

There is the world-class ski resort of Whistler (7,726 voters), which is at least as much an international hub for millions of visitors as it is a small town. There is Pemberton, a kind of agricultural Shangri-La in a remote organic valley (1,937 voters). And there are two strong and ever-strengthening First Nations — the Squamish and the Lil'wat — living in small reserve communities throughout the region. The Lil'wat Nation has 1,163 voters; the Squamish Nation numbers are folded in with the town that bears the same name. Lastly, there is Lions Bay overlooking the Sea to Sky Highway and Howe Sound (1,050 voters).

"Others have described the riding as a microcosm of the whole province, and I certainly agree. That's the most apt description," outgoing MLA Joan McIntyre says. "Huge diversity, to be candid, is one of the great benefits for me. The riding is so interesting, the issues are so widespread. The communities are all at different areas of development and different interests and goals. It's been hard work keeping up, but that said, very interesting."

The Whistler debate

Four of the five candidates — Santos, Sturdy, Johnson and Warrington — were in Whistler on May 6 for the fourth of five all-candidates meetings in the election campaign.  

The debates show how important theatre and performance is to politics. They are a chance for voters see the candidates up front, hear answers to questions and determine how they would perform in the legislature or other public forums, like the media.

On Monday Whistler Library was packed with about 100 people and after a brief introduction by each candidate, moderator Fiona Famulak of the Whistler Chamber of Commerce leads into questions. The rules are stricter here than for the debates in West Vancouver, Pemberton and Squamish: only two candidates could be asked a question, the other two had one minute for rebuttal (though if a question was directed to just one candidate only two could reply, this means one candidate got left out of the opportunity to respond at all. This happened twice during the debate).

"Would you be willing to go against your party in a legislature vote?"

This is the first non-environment-related question (for a look at those, see next section), and is directed at Sturdy and Santos. The former's answer gives a nod to process; the latter's answer to feistiness.

"I absolutely agree that it is the job of an MLA to represent the communities and constituents in the riding to the government," Sturdy responds. "You need to identify what you believe is the interest of your riding. If on an issue the principles are compromised then absolutely, you vote against the party line. But we also need to recognize that a degree of party or parliamentary discipline is critical. Parliament meant failing a confidence motion and we're back at an election."

Santos gives an answer that suggests a willingness to liven up NDP caucus meetings should she win.

"I feel passionate about it myself. It is not a question that I will vote against the party vote. It is a question that I know I will be able to change the party's mind," she says, to laughter.

Given a chance to respond, Warrington says he would vote with his conscience. "I don't think the Green Party even has a whip," he tells the audience.

Johnson, who came into the race in order to provide an alternative to political parties, gives the sobering answer that B.C. legislature records show that just a quarter of one per cent of votes go against the party line. "That's what passes for democracy here," he says.

A subject that is closer to home is long-term economic prosperity, and what the candidates would do to ensure this.

Warrington says the Green Party supports long-term sustainability, green initiatives support this. "We believe an investment in the local people and their knowhow is the best way out of their economic problems.... (and the development of) long-term renewable manageable resources."

Sturdy agrees that "renewables are the way to go" but broadens them out to include tourism, forestry and agriculture. He says that it is not practical for non-renewables to be phased out quickly and believes it will take several decades for such a move.

Johnson believes that education is key and that "under the Liberal government we've just had cut, cut, cut."

Santos refers to her opening statement on the lack of education and skills training and her interest in improving these things. "I think the Liberals brand themselves as the defenders of free enterprise. It hasn't been free enterprise... what I find is that there are certain things that are being subsidized and the others are being left without help."

The range of other subjects is wide. Santos is asked what she would do to address inequality and responds that the NDP want to improve minimum wage levels and invest in childcare, Johnson wants to see a minimum annual income brought in, Warrington supports a guaranteed livable income. Because the question is only addressed to one candidate, thanks to the debate rules, Sturdy does not have the opportunity to respond.

The other debates

There was only one debate out of four in which all five candidates appeared. For the record, the turnout apart from Whistler was: West Vancouver on April 28 — Sturdy, Santos, Warrington and McLeod; Pemberton on May 1 — Sturdy, Santos and Johnson; Squamish on May 2 — Sturdy, Santos, Warrington, McLeod and Johnson. The final debate is in Lions Bay on May 9.

It is worth noting that there are no major position changes by any of the candidates over the course of the four debates, all apart from Johnson stick to party platforms.

Other issues over the course of four debates include taxation, the provincial debt, social services and the standard of living, education, Sturdy's feelings about representing the riding in Opposition if he wins locally and the NDP win provincially, industry and jobs in the Sea to Sky corridor, youth engagement, GST, the carbon tax and more.


In Pemberton, the three candidates present are asked about changes to Destination BC, an industry-led Crown corporation that works collaboratively with tourism stakeholders across the province to coordinate marketing at the international, provincial, regional and local levels, and what they would do to help tourism in the region.

Sturdy says changes to Tourism BC have brought back a balance that is beginning to work, "not so much government, but an industry-government combination." He says there is no perfect formula, but it is going in the right direction. "Funding for the RMOW is clearly very important... I will continue to support an enhanced tourism industry."

Santos says the NDP would also invest in Destination BC and bring more "tourism experts" into the mix. "There is a great opportunity for many forms of cooperation. I would like to see collaborations with aboriginal tourism... BC Parks would also get more funding. We need to put in more of an effort."

Johnson is less concerned. "I take a different stance. We just had the biggest advertising campaign the region could hope for, the Olympics. If we're not on the map now, we never will be... let's take a break."

The environment

The hottest topic at all four debates was what could broadly be termed "the environment;" it beats out the economy, tax, industry and social inequality in terms of the numbers of questions asked by members of the public and led to the most impassioned comments from the audience.

These included independent power projects (IPPs) in the region and the impact on both the environment and BC Hydro, the proposed liquid natural gas (LNG) export terminal for Howe Sound, the Kinder Morgan pipeline from the Alberta oil sands to the B.C. coast, fish farms, and more.

Kinder Morgan — At two debates, Santos is asked about NDP leader Adrian Dix's change of position, coming out against the pipeline expansion carrying bitumen from northern Alberta to the Burrard Inlet, leading to an enormous increase in tanker traffic. In West Vancouver, she says she sees Dix's change as a "common sense approach... I don't look at that as a flip-flop event, but as a change of heart that the port of Vancouver should not be a major export oil port." When asked again in Pemberton about flip-flopping, she responds with a dig against the Liberals and their decision about the HST.

The other candidates also respond. Sturdy says that as far as the BC Liberals go, the question of pipelines and access to oil in this country, "we believe there should be a process and there should be a certainty. In the case of the Northern Gateway and Kinder Morgan pipelines there are five conditions to be met. It is important for investment that the investment community believes they are going to be treated fairly." He says the process will be open and transparent, unlike the NDP.

McLeod says both main parties flip-flop. "It's called policy on the fly... my position as your MLA would be put the constituents first... they oppose the Kinder Morgan pipeline and I would go with my constituents."

Warrington says the Green Party is running on a ticket of being highly principled and "the principle in this case is that we need to get off of oil."

Similarly to McLeod, Johnson says that he, too, has listened to voters and is against the pipelines.

IPPs — Questions about IPPs have been asked at every debate.

Johnson says more independents in the legislature would reverse the "awful trends" of run-of-river schemes. In terms of BC Hydro "buying overpriced power" from IPPs and being no longer profitable, Santos says the NDP will open already existing contracts to look at the financial, social and environmental aspects of each. Sturdy says the existing contracts "just deal with the provision of energy... it's really about the future of energy," including future costs to IPPs that would benefit BC Hydro. McLeod says BC Hydro has been mismanaged and would allow the company to "get back into business." Warrington called it a "gold rush mentality."

LNG on Howe Sound — Johnson comes out against the LNG plant proposal. McLeod does, too, and notes the proponent has a bad environmental record. Warrington says LNG is a fossil fuel, which goes against the Green Party thinking of being long term. Santos says the proposal would need to go through B.C.'s new environmental assessment process, which the NDP would create if they win on May 14. Sturdy notes that the application would go through current assessments and that the site is a brownfield site that would create badly needed tax revenue for the District of Squamish and use run-of-river power from a nearby project.

Fish farms – Sturdy supports the Cohen Commission Report but adds, "it's a complicated issue... we don't know what happens to salmon for much of their lives." Santos says she is committed to working with the Cohen Commission and notes her work with biologist Alexandra Morton on the Broughton Archipelago, where she says she removed sea lice from wild fry. Warrington says he worked in Port McNeil when the first discussions about fish farms came in 30 years ago, his concerns then about using Atlantic salmon have, he says, been confirmed. McLeod is against fish farms because of constituents' views, as is Johnson, who adds "no to GMOs."

A little Sea to Sky context

As MLA, McIntyre spent $121,348 in the campaign to gain the 10,101 votes that won her the 2009 election. In the same race, the NDP's Juliana Buitenhuis spent $7,982, one-fifteenth of McIntyre's amount, and took second place with 4,214 votes. The 2009 Green candidate, Jim Stephenson, spent $16,217 and gained 4,082 votes, coming third.

With 18,527 votes cast (130 ballots spoiled), this meant 53.07 per cent of potential voters took part in 2009.

The 2013 numbers, both in terms of votes and of money spent, are yet to be determined.

Turnout has continually dropped in the four elections since 1996. In 2005, the election which brought McIntyre into the legislature, turnout was 61.57 per cent; this is a drop from 69.19 per cent in 2001 — the year the BC Liberals came to power; 73.03 per cent voted in 1996, the last time New Democratic Party won. If the polls are to be believed, they are poised to win this provincial election, too.

Interestingly, in 1991 78.6 per cent or 19,419 voters elected Liberal David J. Mitchell to represent them. That's about 892 more votes for the winning candidate in 1991 than in 2009. If you care about voter participation, a drop of roughly 25.5 per cent in 22 years makes grim reading.

Gord Addison, the campaign manager for Jordan Sturdy, believes this may come from the difficulty in maintaining up-to-date voters' lists, particularly after changes to voter enumeration in the early 1990s. Another issue, he says, is that because the riding only has part of West Vancouver in it, census information is not useful.

Hanging out with the candidates

Spending time with Sturdy, McLeod, Warrington, Santos and Johnson as they stump around West Vancouver-Sea to Sky and one thing is apparent, a riding is won house by house, block by block, meet-and-greet by meet-and-greet.

Speaking to voters in groups of 10 and 20, talking to one or two in homes and businesses is key; personalize the election and party platform process in order to be relatable, accessible and convincing.

It was with this in mind that I spent time with the candidates as they did the hard legwork.


Jordan Sturdy

New BC Liberal defends the seat


The Sturdymobile is parked in front of the Squamish Sikh Temple. The man whose image is "car wrapped" on its side, BC Liberal candidate Jordan Sturdy, is inside meeting voters on Vaisakhi, a day of thanksgiving and great significance to Sikhs, who make up about 17 per cent of Squamish's 17,000 residents.

I immediately name the candidate's car the "Sturdymobile" in my head, and when I mention it, campaign co-chair Lisa Ames confesses that they, too, call it that. When I say being called Sturdy is rather handy for a politician, she laughs and recounts how the printers of his election signs said the same thing: "'Wow! Good name!' They said."

As three-term mayor of Pemberton, Sturdy is probably the best known of the candidates and has several other advantages, one being the traditional success of the BC Liberals in West Vancouver-Sea to Sky. They've won the last five provincial elections; Sturdy gained the candidacy last October and has been campaigning ever since.

There is a pause after I ask him where they've been campaigning — it has been a busy weekend of moving around the riding. "Definitely West Vancouver. We were in a house talking to what I'd call elders. They have a lot to offer, talking about how in life you should play the cards you're dealt with."

The campaign hasn't been a cakewalk for Sturdy. He had hecklers regarding the Liberal position on the environmetn at the all-candidates debate in West Vancouver on April 28. Some have tried to corner him on issues such as independent power projects, a hot-button issue in Pemberton with the recent passage of the Upper Lillooet IPP and the Village of Pemberton's investigation into a community power project of its own.

But after prayers in the temple, Sturdy is given a warm introduction to worshippers with the words "he is our best friend..." Sturdy appreciates the recommendation and tells them about his work, family, his building North Arm Farm in the Pemberton Valley and his work on council.

At the ceremonial replacement of the temple's flag for Vaisakhi, he has the chance to mix and talk with worshippers. This isn't his first visit and he is well known.

Afterwards, Sturdy and Ames move on to the SORCA bike swap to mix with Squamish residents looking for a mountain bike bargain. There are questions about trails, and local issues. There, they are joined by Sturdy's campaign manager Gord Addison.

"We've been trying to optimize time in the corridor," Addison says. The team has received memos from Dave Davenport, who had been on retiring MLA Joan McIntyre's team for previous campaigns, and it has helped. "Things like what did we learn? What did we do right? What went wrong? Squamish, West Vancouver and Pemberton are all so different. Jordan has to get the right message to the right community."

10 Questions with Jordan Sturdy:

  1. Name one thing we don't know about you:
    I was a Seaforth Highlander
  2. Describe yourself in three words:
    Pragmatic, considered and optimistic.
  3. Describe this riding in three words:
    The whole enchilada.
  4. Apart from politicking, what do you most like to do?
  5. What is your idea of perfect happiness?
    Good germination in a warm spring with just the right amount of rain.
  6. What books do you have on your bedside table?
    The Power of Unreasonable People: How Social Entrepreneurs Create Markets that Change the World, by John Elkington and Pamela Hartigan — as yet unread.
  7. What is your greatest achievement to date?
    Splitting a tractor in half to replace the pistons and main bearings. More importantly, putting it back together.
  8. Tell us about what you got up to on your last non-work/non-campaigning outing in this riding.
    Happy Trail and Indy then Radio Tower and home.
  9. Which living person do you most admire?
    My mother, who worked hard to build a business from scratch, and succeeded.
  10. What is your motto?
    Nurture Growth, Harvest Prosperity


Ana Santos

Discovering a love of campaigning


I'm offered a small orange with a green heart sticker on it by the NDP's Ana Santos; she says she has been handing them out. It's a kind of a citrusy aide memoire to remind people that Santos, the founder of Squamish Climate Action Network, has a green core in the heart of her own personal Orange Crush, the symbol of NDP ascendancy made famous in the 2011 federal election by Jack Layton.

May 14 will be the first time Santos herself will vote in a provincial election after moving to Canada from Spain in 2004 and becoming a Canadian citizen in 2010. I ask her if exercising her franchise to vote while simultaneously hoping to represent everyone else is something her friends and family in Bilbao would be surprised by, she says no, because she has always been someone to get involved, even back in the days when she protested bullfighting.

She is at the Whistler Community Services (WSC) building in Spring Creek, there for a tour and a conversation about social services at the resort. Santos has spent a lot of time meeting regional groups and associations, from the Canadian Bar Association to the Lil'wat First Nation, to learn more about constituents. She tells me she will spend the rest of the campaign going door-to-door meeting voters at home.

Claire Mozes of the WCS takes Santos around and answers questions about food bank use, work health and safety, employment, seniors' facilities at the resort, the community garden, child care, the Howe Sound Women's Centre and Sea to Sky Community Services, with whom they share the building, and more.

Mozes says she sees the stresses on society every day.

"It's like a broken record," she tells Santos.

"It's not going to be a broken record for much longer!" Santos replies.

Santos loves being on the campaign trail and says she wishes it would last longer because it is a "great opportunity" to get to know West Vancouver-Sea to Sky better. She says she would like to see more collaboration between community groups within the riding.

"The hope is to win the election and then find out what is really going on and I'm trying to learn the stories of people now. I wish the campaign lasted until after the summer, there is this intensity to finding out what is going on," Santos says.

She doesn't have a single campaign manager. Instead, she has a group of supporters who tag-team to share the duties. On this particular visit, Linda Kelly-Smith — a volunteer with the Squamish Climate Action Network — is present. Kelly-Smith knows that thanks to high poll numbers it is expected that the NDP will form a majority in Victoria, but in West Vancouver-Sea to Sky things are less certain for the NDP. Still, they keep at it.

"You get energized when you go out with Ana and you realize why we're here. It's not going to be an easy election to win but she reminds us why we're here," Kelly-Smith says.

10 Questions With Ana Santos:

  1. Name one thing we don't know about you:
    Many out there seem worried that government will change the colour of my hair. Stop worrying; my hair has been white for almost 10 years now.
  2. Describe yourself in three words:
    Hungry for action
  3. Describe this riding in three words:
    Ready for action
  4. Apart from politicking, what do you most like to do?
    Cooking and sharing Spanish paella with both friends and strangers.
  5. What is your idea of perfect happiness?
    It's different every day. Today, and this time of year, it is the simple ability to smell the cottonwoods in the air.
  6. What books do you have on your bedside table?
    Cien años de soledad (One Hundred Years of Solitude) by Gabriel García Marquez; Travels with Charley in Search of America by John Steinbeck and Community: The Structure of Belonging by Peter Block.
  7. What is your greatest achievement to date?
    Becoming a fully engaged Canadian citizen.
  8. Tell us about what you got up to on your last non-work/non-campaigning outing in this riding.
    I converted my car to run on waste veggie oil collected from the riding's restaurants.
  9. Which living person do you most admire?
    I have no heroes. I most admire the people around me who have the positive strength and the selfless determination to change the world for the better.
  10. What is your motto?
    Each day requires a new motto.


Ian McLeod

Chasing the disaffected


There's a break in the rain and the cherry blossoms smell like heaven; people are dashing between stores and SUVs in order to avoid the weather.

BC Conservative candidate Ian McLeod and his team are handing out leaflets to shoppers outside the Safeway in Caulfeild, West Vancouver, and taking shelter near the recycling. It's not the first time they've been there, the previous weekend they found themselves sharing the shopping mall with Liberal candidate Jordan Sturdy.

"Very nice man," McLeod says.

But today they're on their own and they attract a sporadic drip-drip of voters. Some are definitely interested in what they have to sell. One, a lawyer in rumpled weekend clothes, tells them he is an unhappy Liberal and sticks around for 15 minutes.

"I'm going to vote Conservative. I'm a little upset," he tells McLeod. "You know what I'm talking about."

"Oh yeah," replies McLeod.

The candidate tells him that both the NDP and the BC Liberals are left-wing and reels out the clichés that tend to stick when voters are disaffected by the larger parties: fat cat bureaucrats, bloated bureaucracies, government spending, spending, and more spending, especially in Premier Christy Clark's tenure of the last two years, "leading to an $11 bn debt.

Ryan Warawa, McLeod's campaign manager, tells the lawyer that he, too, was once a Liberal Party member and that the Conservatives believe that the MLA is the constituents' voice, not the party's.

I ask McLeod about voter engagement in West Vancouver; out of all the candidates this year he is the only one to have been in two previous provincial election campaigns.

He thinks about it and responds: "It's not like people in East Vancouver who are more disenfranchised, maybe. People here have more invested, they are more engaged voters..."

A few minutes later and more leaflets have been handed out and others refused by firm but polite grocery shoppers whose votes will obviously go elsewhere. One man leaves Safeway with his daughter. He takes a leaflet but adds, "I'm a card-carrying Liberal."

I watch the man after he is out of sight from McLeod and his party. He passes two garbage bins; the leaflet makes it to his car.

10 Questions with Ian Macleod:

  1. Name one thing we don't know about you:
    I was an environmental monitor in California for the clean air requirements in regards to gasoline quality.
  2. Describe yourself in three words:
    Energetic, compassionate, savvy.
  3. Describe this riding in three words:
    Natural, breathtaking, beautiful.
  4. Apart from politicking, what do you most like to do?
    Outdoor activities such as skiing, hiking, biking, soccer, hockey, kayaking.
  5. What is your idea of perfect happiness?
    Doing something in your life that benefits all of our society. Being at peace with yourself and others.
  6. What books do you have on your bedside table?
    The Shack by William Paul Young, An Eastern European travel guide by ???, and Mickey D's.
  7. What is your greatest achievement to date?
    Graduating from San Francisco State University.
  8. Tell us about what you got up to on your last non-work/non-campaigning outing in this riding.
    Snowshoeing at Cypress Mountain.
  9. Which living person do you most admire?
    Stephen Harper
  10. What is your motto?
    Government can't solve the problems because government is the problem.


Richard Warrington

Green day in West Van


Green Party candidate Richard Warrington explains on the phone he hasn't been able to get out on the road yet. It's the day of the deadline for candidates to register, Friday, April 26, and since he declared his intentions to run earlier in the week he has been concentrating on securing the 75 signatures needed to get on the ballot.

This now accomplished and submitted to Elections BC, he can turn his mind to campaigning. He invites me to an all-candidates gathering the following afternoon at the West Vancouver Memorial Library.

The Civic Association of Iranian-Canadians has organized it; 40 or so members of that community, along with other voters, assemble to hear candidates from two ridings, West Vancouver-Sea to Sky and West-Vancouver Capilano. Attendance is not compulsory, four candidates out of five from the latter riding are there, and two — Warrington and the NDP's Ana Santos — make it from West Vancouver-Sea to Sky. There's Earl Grey Tea and homemade cookies.

Questions come in English and Farsi (translated). Warrington tackles the task as a teacher would. He refuses the mic offered and raises his voice to the point where the hard-of-hearing, who inevitably seat themselves in the final row, can hear him. He writes copious notes as the other candidates answer questions and stands each time his turn comes.

He's a persuasive speaker; his inexperience and the impossibility of the Greens forming the next government are not hidden. He says the Greens would be lucky to get four MLAs to Victoria, but this would be an influential beachhead into bringing their influence into the legislature. He refers to his 25 years in Denmark and what it taught him about sustainability. He is relentlessly hopeful and he says he ran to fill the Green-shaped hole in West Vancouver-Sea to Sky.

"I became a politician about a week ago when someone told me, 'there's no Green candidate in your riding!'... We'd like to see balance and sustainability at all levels of government. Green is not just green environment. We'd like to see sustainability in the economy, in social services as well. I support those values and that is why I am talking to you about the Green Party today," he tells the audience.

Campaign manager Taylor Verrall tells me they had been playing catch-up a bit after coming into the running so late.

"The other teams have their signs up and they've been working the ground a bit," he says, adding they will concentrate on those areas in the riding that are traditionally strong for the party. "Last time around, with (former candidate) Jim Stephenson, we got 23 per cent of vote. That's a respectable amount for a party that has never elected an MLA."

10 Questions with Richard Warrington:

  1. Name one thing we don't know about you:
    I once went skydiving.
  2. Describe yourself in three words:
    Patient, principled, and persistent.
  3. Describe this riding in three words:
    Vast, diverse, hospitable.
  4. Apart from politicking, what do you most like to do?
    Read, run, sail and say, "yes" to questions like, "How would you like to..?" (Actually don't even like "politicking" that much).
  5. What is your idea of perfect happiness?
    A new challenge or adventure — and being able to share it with my special someone.
  6. What books do you have on your bedside table?
    A spy thriller, Plato's Apology, and two to three magazines that I never seem to get to.
  7. What is your greatest achievement to date?
    The personal ballast I got from finishing my first marathon.
  8. Tell us about what you got up to on your last non-work/non-campaigning outing in this riding.
    A several-hour long run on a new trail near Horseshoe Bay.
  9. Which living person do you most admire?
    The Dalai Lama.
  10. What is your motto?
    "I've been put here on Earth to be good toward others. What the others are here for — I don't know." The real quote is: "We are all here on earth to help others; what on earth the others are here for, I don't know," by W.H. Auden.


Jon Johnson

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:

  1. Name one thing we don't know about you:
    Jazz aficionado — specifically "free" jazz (improvised music).
  2. Describe yourself in three words:
    Practical, problem solver, hilarious.
  3. Describe this riding in three words:
    Landscape-tacular, raw, relaxed
  4. Apart from politicking, what do you most like to do?
    Ride my bicycle to Seattle, cook with my wife and make art, specifically photographic.
  5. 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.
  6. 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.
  7. 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).
  8. 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
  9. Which living person do you most admire?
    Brian Eno.
  10. What is your motto?
    Eat more garlic!


For more information, check out the candidates on their websites:

BC Liberals:


New Democratic Party:


Green Party:


BC Conservatives:


Jon Johnson: