By Andrew Mitchell
Whether it’s through his regular letters to publications in his home riding or appearances at local events, Conservative Party candidate John Weston has kept a high profile since the last federal election when he lost to Liberal Blair Wilson by less than 1,000 votes — just 1.5 per cent of all votes cast last January. In a way, the campaigning has never stopped.
Last Thursday, Nov. 8, Wilson predictably announced his intention to run again for the Conservative Party nomination in the West Vancouver-Sunshine Coast-Sea to Sky Country riding — one of Canada’s largest in terms of population, and most diverse in terms of geography, population and issues.
He made the announcement in Whistler, surrounded by supporters and members of the public who were keen to meet the Conservative Party candidate.
“I’m proud of our party to hold these nominations, that even the Prime Minister has to face that challenge just as we do in 308 other ridings,” said Weston. “That’s not true of other parties that have been known to parachute in candidates before an election.”
So far Weston has just one challenger for the riding, West Vancouver lawyer David Thomas. Thomas has run for Parliament once before as a Conservative, losing to then-Reform Party MP John Reynolds.
Weston says that debates will likely be held between all candidates in the next few months in select areas of the riding, followed by a vote within the local riding association that will run from Jan. 5 to 7. Weston encourages everyone to join the riding association through his website, www.johnweston.ca, to be eligible to cast their vote for the next Conservative candidate.
Although some believe that Parliament will be brought down for the second time in a year by a vote of non-confidence in the House of Commons, Weston says he doesn’t think that is likely before the riding nominations are complete.
At his nomination party, Weston repeated his stance on several issues of importance to Whistler and Sea to Sky constituents.
For Whistler in particular he has championed the idea of changing the holiday worker visa program to help the resort find seasonal employees. In October Weston brought federal Immigration Minister Monte Solberg to Whistler twice to meet with the Chamber of Commerce and local business leaders.
“The goal is to make it easier for the Whistler community to get reliable employees to perform the work that needs to be done up to, and after, the Olympics,” said Weston. “For instance, doubling the (visa) period from one to two years, and creating a program parallel to the provincial nomination program for immigration… where the province and communities work together to identify priorities.”
According to Weston, the minister is currently considering changes to the existing system, “and I’m fairly confident something would happen soon.”
Another priority for Weston is the issue of CN train derailments and ensuring the damage caused by a spill of a caustic chemical on the Cheakamus River is repaired to the satisfaction of local communities.
Another issue that came up was the Conservative’s recent decision to change the way income trusts are taxed, closing what some believe is a tax loophole in 2011. Weston stands by the decision of Finance Minister Jim Flaherty to make the change.
“We’ve convened one forum on income trusts, and will convene another forum on Nov. 21 on the Sunshine Coast, and I have committed to communicate to the Minister of Finance the issues and concerns of people in our riding,” he said.
“The government made a courageous decision in a minority government situation. But it’s important to note the new regulations have not been enacted yet, and I will be conveying to the minister some recommendations from people in our riding — such as increasing the tax holiday from the proposed four years (through 2011).”
Weston says he is looking forward to campaigning again in the riding, and having the chance to talk to people about different issues.
“For me it was absolutely appropriate to kick off the formal nomination campaign in Whistler, the Olympic part of the riding, with a good showing of people from the community,” said Weston. “There were political leaders, community leaders, corporate leaders. And I was very pleased John Fraser, a former Minister of Fisheries, came to reflect on a career of volunteering and public life, and to have some discussion of things we’re working on in the Sea to Sky corridor.”