ELECTION 2015: Liberal candidate attends workshop in Ottawa

Federal candidate Don Johnston and his party are gearing up for the big election in October.

Federal candidate Don Johnston and his party are gearing up for the big election in October.

Johnston attended the Team Trudeau campaign college in Ottawa last week, a three-day workshop to lay the groundwork for a summer of campaigning. One hundred and thirty eight prospective MPs descended on the nation’s capital to participate in the workshop.

“It was great to meet candidates from other regions and get a sense what they saw as the election issues,” Johnston said. “There was a lot of focus on making sure everybody was coming from the same framework in terms of where the election was going and what some of the top priorities for the party are.”

The candidates made several stops during their time in Ottawa, including a meeting with the national caucus and a special appearance in Justin Trudeau’s major federal campaign announcement on June 16th.

“We were on stage for Justin Trudeau’s big announcement around a more open and transparent government,” Johnston said. “It was really quite an interesting experience.”

The prospective MPs were given several instructional seminars on the ins and outs of a federal election. Johnston said he learned how big a difference there is between campaigning in a rural riding compared to an urban riding.

“The smallest constituency in Canada is nine square kilometres and ours is 64,000 square kilometres,” Johnston said. “It is a massive riding.”

Strategically, Johnston learned about the importance of having a well-organized group of volunteers. He plans to have a key volunteer in each community to act as a conduit for information between him and the constituents.

One of Johnston’s main campaign promises is to raise the level of dialogue and awareness around rural issues. He said Ottawa can easily put rural issues on the backburner if there aren’t people fighting for them.

“Rural communities are in a great deal of stress,” Johnston said. “I was in Invermere not that long ago and I saw the empty stores.”

After attending the workshop, Johnston said he is confident the Liberal Party would be able to better manage rural issues, leading to increased development and productivity in the Columbia Valley.

“I learned from the workshop that other rural candidates are very interested in having the dialogue and raising the profile of rural issues,” Johnston said.

Though the election is not until October 19th, Johnston said he is already in the thick of a busy campaign season, which includes events like the workshop in Ottawa

“The election is still a long ways away in terms of people having not yet realized how quickly it is coming, but if you look at it from my perspective, it is coming really fast,” Johnston said.