Aaron Sam—one of two candidates seeking the NDP nomination in the Fraser-Nicola riding—says he has “no complaints” about the late nomination date, which is set for March 18: less than two months before the provincial election on May 9.
“It gives us time to rally the NDP members, listen to them, and hear what their concerns are. And there will be lots of time to campaign.”
Sam, who is in his first term as chief of the Lower Nicola Band and has been a practising lawyer for a decade, is running against four-time MLA Harry Lali. He announced his candidacy in early December 2016, ending weeks of speculation about his intentions, and says that he was able to sign up new members, who have to have been a member of the party for 90 days before the March 18 nomination date in order to vote.
“I believe I have a very strong chance of winning the nomination,” he says. “And lots of members are very excited to have two candidates, and to be going through the nomination process.”
Sam says he has been meeting members of the public since announcing his candidacy, and plans to continue doing so. “There are different concerns from different people, but an underlying concern is the economy. Lots of people are looking at creative ways to help rural employment.” Other recurrent concerns surround education, health-care, and seniors’ issues, he adds.
Although this is his first foray into provincial politics, Sam believes that his record speaks for itself. “I’ve been a full-time practising lawyer for 10 years, and have negotiated with federal and provincial government representatives. I’ve sat down with industry and business leaders and advocated for them and for my people. A lot of the people I’ve talked to are very excited that someone like myself is running a positive campaign.”
When asked if running a positive campaign is important to him, Sam replies “It’s really, really important. People are tired of negative campaigns. They want a leader who will talk about issues, and how those issues will impact the lives of people. I’m committed to listening to people and advocating for them.
“I’m very well acquainted with the riding, and will be travelling to different areas. I want to hear concerns from as many people as I can. It’s important for the nominee, and the MLA, to listen to the concerns of constituents, to speak for everyone in the riding, and to talk about the concerns of the riding in Victoria.”
When asked about the proposed twinning of the Kinder Morgan pipeline, which goes past Sam’s home town of Merritt and through the Nicola Valley, he says that it is “very important” for the Interior, adding that while the jobs it will provide are important, there is a need to look at other permanent, long-term jobs as well.
“It’s very, very important that the NDP makes sure people can live in small communities and raise their families there. People should be able to get long-term, sustainable jobs, and John Horgan and the NDP are committed to creating those jobs.”
In August 2016 the Lower Nicola Band, which has 1,200 members, installed 330 photovoltaic solar panels on the band’s school, to help power it and feed electricity back into the local grid. Up to 85.8 kilowatts of electricity will be generated by the project, which is the largest community-owned solar panel installation in the province.
Sam is excited about this investment in renewable energy. “It’s a first step that will make a big difference for everyone.” He would like to see similar projects throughout the riding. “Merritt, Ashcroft, Cache Creek, Lillooet: they all have a lot of sun. Plus there are other renewable energy sources, and investing in renewable energy sources creates jobs.”
When asked about the proposed extension to the Cache Creek landfill, Sam says he would like to hear from people in Cache Creek and Ashcroft about what the issues are surrounding the site and the extension.
He says that there has been “A lot of planning and hard work. I’ve been talking to a lot of NDP members. I’ll do whatever I can over the next few weeks so we can hit the ground running on March 19.”
When reminded that he had told The Journal in December 2016 that he was looking forward to what the next weeks and months would bring, Sam says he still feels that way. “It’s a lot of hard work, but I’m enjoying it. I love going out and listening to people, meeting them, hearing what they have to say.
“Over the next few weeks I’ll get a better idea of what the concerns are for everyone in the riding.”