Retired school counsellor Bill Forst is the new NDP candidate in West Vancouver-Sunshine Coast-Sea to Sky Country.
Currently the president of the NDP riding association, Forst became the NDP candidate after Dana Larsen stepped down suddenly, on Sept. 17. Larsen’s past involvement with the B.C. Marijuana Party and old videos available on the Internet showing him taking drugs and driving led to his resignation.
The NDP riding association responded quickly, holding a new nomination meeting on the afternoon of Sept. 19. Forst, 59, was selected as Larsen’s replacement and started his campaign over the weekend.
A resident of Gibsons for the past 35 years, Forst is a former president of the Sunshine Coast Teachers Association and B.C. School Counsellors Association, and an active member of the arts community.
He wasted no time in attacking Prime Minister Stephen Harper and the Conservative Party for, in his view, favouring tax cuts and giveaways to corporations over average Canadians — a plank from the “boardroom tables to kitchen tables” platform that has been Jack Layton’s catchphrase throughout the campaign. Forst’s personal issues include child care, the cost of post-secondary education, and reversing almost $60 million in federal support that was cut from arts and culture funding.
“(Arts) is absolutely a big issue for me because I’m very involved with it and familiar with it. But my biggest issue since I joined the party has been the environment, and the success that Jack Layton and the NDP have had,” said Forst.
While he acknowledges that he’s at a bit of a disadvantage entering the campaign two weeks late, he says he has family and business connections in all of the communities in the riding that have allowed him to get up to speed.
One theme that has emerged so far in the campaign is leadership.
“You have to have strong leadership and… I have no doubt whatsoever that people think that leadership should come from Jack Layton, and not Stephen Harper. It’s not coming from (Liberal leader) Stephane Dion, who has had one and a half years to provide an effective opposition to the Conservative Party but sat on their hands on 44 confidence motions. There is no opposition from the official opposition.”
Meanwhile, former candidate Larsen made no secret of his views on drugs and drug laws, as a founder of the B.C. Marijuana Party, founder of End Prohibition, and both founder and former manager of the Vancouver Seed Bank — a store that sells, among other things, marijuana seeds, opium poppy seeds, peyote, Peruvian coca plant, and other psychoactive plants.