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Sweeney taking on Strahl

Chilliwack-Fraser Canyon candidate last Liberal to be nominated in B.C.



The Liberal Party has a full slate in B.C. with the acclamation of Myra Sweeney, who will be running against Chuck Strahl in the riding of Chilliwack-Fraser Canyon.

Sweeney, 34, was acclaimed as the candidate on Sept. 19 and was the last of the Liberal Party’s candidates to be confirmed in the province for the 2008 federal election. She also ran in the 2006 election, coming in third behind Strahl and NDP candidate Malcolm James with just under 17 per cent of the vote.

Now taking another stab at a seat in the riding that includes Pemberton, Sweeney told Pique in an interview that she has “just as good” a chance as last time, but feels the Liberals have a strong platform this time that’s going to make voters think.

“It’s not going to be an easy campaign by any means,” she said. “Stephane Dion has put himself out there, he’s finally taken a step where others haven’t.”

A parole officer by trade, Sweeney had to get approval to run from the federal Public Service Commission, a body that oversees professionalism in the public service. A brief election period made it difficult for her to get that approval for the time she would need to run.

“Harper called a very, very short election here,” she said. “Even when the writ dropped, and I made my application and stuff, I didn’t have enough time, according to what they want. They want 30 days to review your application.

“Because of it being such a short, short election, I had to get permission.”

Now a full-fledged candidate, Sweeney wants to make the environment a cornerstone of her campaign.

“I think the residents of Chilliwack, Fraser Valley will know this, we feel the pollution from the city,” she said. “Look outside and there’s no clouds but yet there’s a haze and we can’t see the mountains.

“We’re not as bad as Toronto, but you know, we’re going to get there if we don’t do something.”

Sweeney herself has taken allergy medication to offset the symptoms of the haze. A member of an Emergency Response Team, it’s important for her to stay physically fit, but she has trouble doing that outside.

“I find myself wanting to run inside sometimes on hot summer days,” she said. “I need to get my cardio up and be in the gym where the air is filtered.”

As a parole officer, Sweeney has seen first-hand the impacts of the Conservatives’ tough stance on crime has had on criminals. While she has nothing against longer sentences, as Prime Minister Stephen Harper has proposed for youths found guilty of murder, she feels the government hasn’t done enough to help criminals adjust to life after prison.

“If you’re going to do longer sentences, which does work, then you’ve got to put something in,” Sweeney said. “You have to give them skills, challenge them, make them want to be pro-social.

“You can’t just throw away the key and give them nothing afterwards.”

She made particular reference to intervention and rehabilitation programs that she said have been cut since Harper took office. She could not, however, identify any particular programs by name.

”Maybe longer sentences are the way to go, like burn them out,” Sweeney said. “You can’t just throw away the key and give them nothing afterwards.

“They go in there, and I’ve seen it time and again, you get a harder (time) coming out. The ones who have access to programs have a much better chance.”

Though she’s excited to run as a Liberal, Sweeney nevertheless faces an uphill battle against an incumbent who has decimated the competition in five straight elections. She also lives in Abbotsford, outside the riding’s boundaries, so that she can be close to her work and inmates being released from the Matsqui correctional institution.

But she doesn’t believe that will count against her.

“They didn’t hold it against Stockwell Day,” she said, laughing. “I think the two ridings are close, they have a lot of the same interests.”