Don Johnston has been given the nod to stand as a candidate for the federal Liberal Party of Canada .
He will represent the party here in the Kootenay-Columbia riding in B.C. during the federal election on Oct. 19, 2015 and was formally nominated at the Hume Hotel in Nelson on Wednesday, May 27th.
“One of the things that people perhaps don’t realize is that the smallest riding in Canada is nine square kilometres,” said Johnston. “You can literally walk from one corner of the riding to the other in two and a half hours. Our riding is 64,000 square kilometres and it’s huge. It’s a huge and daunting area to try to think about representing, but I will be travelling the riding regularly between now and the election. I hope to meet as many people as I can, but it’s going to be a challenge to do that, so I think when you have a riding as large and diverse as this one — somebody who has a comprehensive understanding of the entire region brings something to the table.”
Johnston, the former chief executive officer (CEO) of both the Columbia Basin Trust (CBT) and Canada World Youth, grew up in the West Kootenay. He graduated from L.V. Rogers Senior Secondary School in Nelson and later, went on to spend a 40-year career working in community development on a national and international level.
But there’s no place closer to his heart than the Kootenay region.
“As I look at what’s going on in Canada right now, I feel a real need to get involved,” said Johnston. “I’m just not very happy with the direction this government’s taking us.”
He added supporting the Liberals has been a lifelong passion.
“I’m also a huge fan of Justin (Trudeau’s) approach to leadership,” he said. “He’s much more interested in building teams and shared leadership than the kind of autocratic control that Mr. Harper seems to favour. Right from the start of his original leadership, it was very clear that he believes we need to open up parliament and open up democracy to give MPs more importance in the process.”
Johnston said his formal nomination brings the end of one process while marking the start of his next chapter in politics.
“I think one of the real challenges in Canada right now is that people have forgotten a little bit about why there are MPs in parliament,” said Johnston. “The focus is so much on national leadership and national policies. In this current government, MPs really don’t have a voice. Everything is controlled out of the Prime Minister’s Office, so for me, part of it is to remind people that the first purpose of (a member of) parliament is to represent the constituents who have voted him or her into the position — and I think we’ve lost that a little bit.”
Johnston said his campaign will strive to assist people from all different walks of life within the Kootenay-Columbia riding.
He will be challenged by Kootenay-Columbia NDP candidate Wayne Stetski, who recently voiced an interest in having Justin Trudeau’s endorsement for this riding as the Liberal party had not yet selected a candidate for this riding. However, those plans have been thrown for a loop with the Liberal party having nominated Johnsto, an issue Johnston did not shy away from.
“I think to expect that (request to have the Liberals support an NDP candidate) to happen is somewhat naive,” said Johnston. “The reality, in terms of splitting the vote in the riding, is that this isn’t one of those ridings where the conservatives got the seat because the opposition split the vote. It’s a riding where the Conservative party had well over 50 per cent of the vote, so the key to winning this riding is going to be to win support away from the Conservative party, and I think they’re incredibly vulnerable. I think Canadians are tired of their aggressive and dismissive and divisive approach to politics. I think that’s wearing thin on people and I think people are probably very aware that (Kootenay-Columbia Conservative incumbent MP David) Wilks is not able to do as much as he would like to do because of the strong central control of the Conservative Party.”
Ultimately, Johnston believes the ability to offer a strong representation to the Kootenay-Columbia riding is essential for a show of solidarity within the region. “As the former CEO of the CBT for six years, I know this region very, very well,” said Johnston. “I travelled it extensively. I was on the road for the whole time. For six years. And I just really think that this riding deserves to have a strong voice in Ottawa that understands the entire region, along with a lot of the social and economic issues facing rural communities. It’s really important.”
To learn more about Johnston, call 250-551-7789 or e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org.