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Federal candidates ready for election

Weston, two Wilsons vie for John Reynolds’s seat

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It lasted longer than many thought it would, but after 17 months Paul Martin’s Liberal minority government was defeated in a confidence vote on Monday.

Because of the timing around the Christmas Holiday, Elections Canada did away with the usual five-week campaign cycle. The election date is Jan. 23, giving candidates close to two months to campaign.

This is the first time that a Canadian minority government has been brought down by a specific vote of no confidence. Other minority governments have been ousted by losing votes on the budget or censure motions, which are considered to be votes of no confidence.

The Martin government dodged an earlier vote of no confidence over the budget this spring – with the help of a defection to the Liberal Party by conservative MP Belinda Stronach.

Martin had promised to call a federal election in March of 2006, once the final report on the sponsorship scandal was released. The Liberals also said they wanted to avoid a holiday election campaign, which most Canadians do not want.

Martin himself was exonerated in the first report on the scandal but other parties pounced on the Liberals’ credibility, and their attempt to win back public support through a proposed tax cut. Recent polls also showed that most Canadians would like to see a change in leadership, and that other national parties were making gains.

Martin dismissed the vote of no confidence as a blatant power grab. "Ambition has overwhelmed common sense," he told reporters.

He also said that the other parties had no interest in addressing issues in Parliament, but instead focused their efforts on forcing another election. "It was their obsession and now we have it."

For the West Vancouver-Sunshine Coast riding, which includes Whistler, the campaign really began in the spring when opposition parties first tried to derail the budget.

With John Reynolds, the longtime MP for the area and former leader of the opposition, stepping down the Conservatives nominated lawyer John Weston earlier this year.

Reynolds has served in federal and provincial governments on and off since 1972, and is a household name in his riding.

"I think people have a high regard for John and his response on an individual basis for his constituents’ concerns, and I’ve often heard that they are big shoes to fill," said Weston. "But people have been open minded to hear about a new conservative candidate, and what I have to offer.

"They seem to like that fact that I’m a Chinese-speaking guy, with business experience in Asia. They like the constitutional background because we have major constitutional issues and aboriginal issues to deal with – not only in our riding, but in our province and country. They like that I can speak French as well, because we need people in Ottawa who can fight for B.C."

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