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Federal election candidates off and running

The stage is set for the May 2 federal election and candidates vying for your vote in B.C. Southern Interior have hit the campaign trail.
Conservative Stephen Hill (left) says MP Alex Atamanenko (right) has not been doing enough for this riding

This spring’s federal election is either unnecessary and a waste of money or the inevitable result of the government’s contempt for parliament, depending on which candidate for B.C. Southern Interior you ask.

Conservative Stephen Hill wishes we weren’t going to the polls, and says based on his campaigning to date, neither do most citizens. At the same time, “My life in purgatory is over. I will have certainty as of May 2.”

Hill, who has held the nomination for 18 months, is running on a job creation platform, pointing to his work in reestablishing the Midway sawmill as the sort of community venture capital projects he can broker.

“I did it as a non-MP and it cost me huge personal resources,” he says.

“It’s taking an inordinate amount of time with absolutely no benefit other than personal satisfaction of helping people gain employment in the Boundary.”

The Rossland resident says economic development is key to preserving schools, hospitals, and other services in small communities.

“The reason I’m doing this is because they closed my children’s elementary school. They’re now after my children’s high school, and if we don’t fight for our communities, what’s left to fight for?”

Hill says incumbent New Democrat Alex Atamanenko is “a very fine gentleman. He’s very intelligent, very articulate, a great singer and guitar player. He’s very good at karate.

“But I guess the question has to be: how many jobs has Alex created in the last five years, and why do we have the worst unemployment in British Columbia?”

Atamanenko, however, says he proudly stands on his record.

“A lot of things I do don’t make headlines. I have been helping communities and individuals,” he says. “My staff and I have worked really hard since I was first elected and we’re getting some very positive feedback.”

As NDP agriculture critic, Atamanenko says he is beholden to both his party and his constituents.

“My priority is the riding, but at the same time I have a responsibility on legislative issues. A lot of things I do nationally resonate here on agriculture.”

In the Midway case, Atamanenko gives Hill full marks for his volunteer efforts, but notes the mill has not reopened yet, and it remains to be seen what sort of effect it will have on the community.

“If things get going and he’s been instrumental, that’s good. But I don’t know how many jobs will be created, what the conditions are, or what people are going to be paid.”

Atamanenko says he doesn’t usually get involved with specific issues unless asked.

“I try to cooperate with local government officials and back them up on a federal angle. If there’s a provincial issue and I want to get involved, I check with local MLAs [first].”

He believes the election is necessary after the government was found in contempt of parliament, and that Hill must justify his party’s actions.

Green candidate Bryan Hunt, who was raised in Kaslo but lives in Calgary, says he will soon be on the ground campaigning.

“My official stance is that I do not think this is an election Canadians want right now,” he wrote in an email. “I think it is a waste that could be spent better other places. Especially when the polls indicate the likely outcome is pretty much exactly what we have now.”

Hunt says better cooperation between the parties could have staved off the election, “so I am a bit disappointed with them… Now that it has been called though, I am happy to campaign and get the word out about the Green Party and myself.”

The Liberals recently announced Kelowna’s Shan Lavell as their candidate (see related story, here).

Need election information?

Elections Canada has established its office for BC Southern Interior on the fifth floor of Nelson City Hall.

The office is open 9 a.m. to 9 p.m. weekdays, 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. on Saturday, and noon to 4 p.m. on Sunday. Sub-offices have also been set up in Trail and Osoyoos.

The office can be reached at 1-866-546-7619.