The next federal election may not be until October 2019 but already four northwestern residents are in the running for the Conservative Party of Canada’s nomination for the Skeena – Bulkley Valley riding.
And, for the first time in recent memory, two of those people are from Kitimat — Jody Craven and Claire Rattée — with a third, MaryAnn Freeman, coming from Terrace and a fourth, Gerald Caron, from Vanderhoof.
The party’s riding association expects to hold nomination meetings by this fall, giving the successful candidate a full year of campaigning ahead of the October 20, 2019, elections.
Once the procedure for accepting nominations has finished, a 45-day campaigning period officially gets underway, explained Caron, who in addition to being a candidate is also the riding’s communications director.
The first half of the campaigning period involves candidates signing up supporters as members of the party, while the second half sees candidates building on that support by contacting other party members through a membership list provided by the party, he said.
As was the case when the party chose its candidate for the federal election in 2015, members will cast their ballots in person at one of five locations over a two-day period, Caron added.
“Those five locations will be Prince Rupert, Kitimat, Terrace, Smithers and Burns Lake,” he said, adding that Terrace will be the last stop and where votes will be counted.
At each stop, candidates will speak in hopes of gaining last minute support.
“The [candidate] voting will be done by a ranked ballot. Members will list their first choice and then their others. The person who has the least Number Ones will drop off and their Number Twos added to the votes of the other people. This will keep on until a person gets 50 per cent [of the ballots],” said Caron.
The Skeena – Bulkley Valley riding is one of the largest in the country, stretching from Haida Gwaii and the north coast eastward to Fort St. James and northward to the Yukon border, while excluding Vanderhoof.
Skeena – Bulkley Valley Conservatives, however, would have their work cut out for them as New Democrat Party’s Nathan Cullen has represented the riding since 2004.
He’s won five elections and captured more than 50 per cent of the vote in the last two elections.
Cullen also gained national recognition by placing third in the federal NPD leadership race of 2012.
He toured the country extensively to promote a change in the first-past-the-post system currently used to elect Members of Parliament.
Cullen has also been recognized by fellow Members of Parliament as one of the most effective federal elected members.
The last federal election in 2015 also featured a strong showing by Liberal candidate Brad Layton, a councillor on the Telkwa council.
Here’s a brief rundown on each of the candidates
This isn’t Caron’s first attempt at elected politics. He was a candidate for the Conservative nomination in the Cariboo-Prince George riding for the 2015 federal election before throwing his support behind Todd Doherty, who went on to win the riding.
Caron, 53, then declared his candidacy for the Conservative nomination for Skeena – Bulkley Valley as a latecomer, subsequently withdrawing his candidacy.
An educator by profession, Caron works for School District 91’s E-bus Academy, an online K-12 school facility offering education via the Internet. He first came to the north in 2000 by moving to Prince George before relocating to Vanderhoof.
Caron acknowledges a strong anti-Stephen Harper surge in 2015 contributed to the downfall of the Conservative government and the election of Justin Trudeau’s Liberals but says things will be different this time.
“Even right-wing people voted for Mr. Trudeau,” said Caron of the 2015 vote, adding that a respectable Liberal vote showing in this riding in 2015 will dissolve as people return to the Conservative Party.
On the verge of retiring from Rio Tinto, Craven, 54, moved to Kitimat in 1980. He is a graduate of Mount Elizabeth Senior Secondary and lists an extensive background in youth sports in Kitimat and involvement with the foster parents organizations among his community involvement.
He’s running for the nomination because he believes Justin Trudeau is spending too much time on international issues instead of domestic ones.
“It’s time for everyday Canadians to speak up. I believe the people of Canada should come first, especially senior citizens and the First Nations,” said Craven in adding that there needs to be more employment forlocal people.
With First Nations, Craven says more should be done to raise living standards and opportunities.
As for seniors, Craven says “zero is being done to help them. These are people who built this country.”
And while current Skeena – Bukley Valley MP Nathan Cullen may be popular, “I’ll beat him,” Craven adds.
Freeman has held executive positions, including president, within the Conservative Skeena – Bulkley Valley riding association.
This isn’t the first time Freeman’s sought federal office — she ran second to Tyler Nesbitt when the party chose its candidate for the 2015 federal election.
And she also has local public experience thanks to being at one time the chair of the Coast Mountains School District’s district-wide parent advisory council.
Freeman’s lived in Terrace for close to 30 years and is a director of a trucking company and has been involved in amateur sports.
Speaking about her interest in elected politics, Freeman said she wanted to serve the people of the riding.
A co-owner with partner Oliver Brown in tattoo and piercing parlour Divineink in Kitimat, Rattée is a first-term Kitimat council member, elected at the age of 22 in the 2014 local government elections.
She’s lived in Kitimat for six and a half years, describing the move from her Lower Mainland home as difficult at first but soon realizing the advantages of living in a smaller community.
“I’ve always been interested in politics,” said Rattée, adding that her municipal experience has helped in learning and understanding northwest issues.
She’s also the first to admit people might be surprised she’s a conservative in philosophy and actions.
“I’ve been a conservative my whole life but this is not what people might have expected of me. I’m covered in tattoos — I’m a tattoo artist,” said Rattée.
“I really believe in less government,” said Rattée, adding that freeing up business and allowing the economy to expand will provide the needed revenue for social programs.
She also describes herself as a libertarian, an overall approach to life which emphasizes political freedom and autonomy as well as freedom of choice and self reliance.
Because of Rattée’s federal interest, she won’t be running again for Kitimat council, meaning there will be at least one new face following local government elections this October.