Party politics for the most part took back seat to cooperation at the all-candidates meeting last week, sponsored by the Hope Ratepayers.
However, only three of the five candidates vying for the position of Member of Parliament for the Chilliwack-Fraser Canyon riding attended the Tuesday, April 12, meeting.
No explanation for the absence of Green Party candidate was available to the 55 voters in the audience, however, moderator Wilfried Vicktor read out a statement that had been sent to Hope Ratepayers Association by Conservative candidate, Mark Strahl.
“Thank you for your invitation… I would have loved to have been there; however, I had a previously planned event in Pemberton that day that will prevent me from joining you,” wrote Strahl. “In a riding this large (Chilliwack—Fraser Canyon is 30,000 square kilometers in size!) and with the number of invitations we have received, it is simply not possible to attend all of the events…
The three women candidates who did manage to make Hope’s only ‘all-candidates’ public meeting were NDP Gwen O’Mahony, Liberal Diane Janzen, and Dorothy Jean O’Donnell, of the Marxist-Leninist party – and they focused on local.
“Members of parliament get elected then they serve who put them there which was the party power, said O’Donnell, a lawyer who practices in Hope. “Our party takes the view that parties should not come to power… there should be mechanisms of accountability of the Member of Parliament to the citizens they represent.” O’Donnell has been running in every federal and provincial election for over a decade promoting the Marxist Leninist party.
“This is the community where I started my provincial campaign and on election night celebrated the inroads we made against Liberal MLA Barry Penner,” said NDP candidate Gwen O’Mahony, a single parent and health advocate. Sporting an energetic door-knocking political style, O’Mahony has been a regular sight on the streets of Hope and the Fraser Canyon, block by block imparting her “political passion” of “empowerment, not futility, compassion not bigotry, community not individualism, collaboration not division, and fairness not entitlement… in other word, hope not despair.”
Working together with local communities was also the message from Liberal candidate Diane Janzen, the education manager for the Seabird Island Band. Janzen, who has a strong base in local politics as a former school board trustee and has stepped down from her position as Chillliwack city councillor to run in the federal election.
“Call it the school of hard knocks…. Call it on the job training but the beauty of local government is that it is not partisan, and you have to work with people who come from totally the opposite of what you believe and you have to sit down and work things out… I would love to see that happen in parliament.
“I am not interested in going there and sipping champagne on your dime” but “representing you and your interests.”
And failing infrastructure and economic development are two of the top issues facing the Hope region, says Janzen. Replacing aging infrastructure results in “significant” tax increases in small communities like Hope due to the small tax base.
And the tax base is not likely to grow without a strong focus on economic development.
“I have heard from residents that we are losing enrollment in our schools because families have to leave because the jobs aren’t here,” said Janzen. “I absolutely believe economic development starts right here,” promising to work closely on local economic development initiatives with the Chamber of Commerce, Hope council, and the district’s new economic development officer.