During a campaign appearance in support of Kootenay-Columbia MP David Wilks on Wednesday morning at the Prestige Lakeside Resort in Nelson, Olympian skier and Conservative senator Nancy Greene Raine regaled the room with the story of her 1968 gold medal-winning giant slalom run in Grenoble, France.
“I was glued to the TV screen when you went screaming down that hill,” an audience member told her. “The whole country went upside down. I’ve got to know how it felt when you did that.”
“Well, I always say I know one thing: a gold medal is a million times better than a silver,” said the Rossland-raised Greene Raine, to enthusiastic applause. “I’d gotten the silver in the slalom and I did badly in the downhill — I think I came 10th, so I was upset — but it was the perfect course for me, steep and icy right at the bottom, and I gave it everything.”
But when she crossed the finish line, it took a moment for her time to appear on the giant digital scoreboard overhead.
“I looked up and the time wasn’t on the clock. I thought ‘oh my God, I just had the run of my life and they missed my time!’ Then all the lights on the electric board began to change, it was probably only a split second, and then I saw it.”
As thrilling as that experience was, Greene Raine said the birth of her twins trumps it. Speaking to the crowd of approximately 40, including such prominent faces as former mayor John Dooley and pastor Jim Reimer, she described her career working in resort development with husband Al, now the mayor of Sun Peaks, and praised Nelson’s unique mountain culture.
“You should be proud of what you have here.”
She also encouraged those present to vote Conservative.
“Work hard to make sure we get as many Conservative-thinking voters out as possible. I feel proud of our record, and I really appreciate and respect our Prime Minister Stephen Harper and I know what he’s doing on the world stage is important. We live in unsettling times.”
She praised the Kootenay Refugee Coalition and the work they’re doing, stressing that small communities like Nelson need to be at the forefront of the growing crisis in Syria.
“I know there are lots of Canadians willing to do that work, and it’s so rewarding. It’s totally giving of yourself to help others and there’s nothing more rewarding in life than that … I think we will do that because what’s happening in Syria is terrible. That’s an evil that has to be stopped. We can’t walk away.”
She said bringing refugees to small towns is better than introducing them to cities.
“They wouldn’t appreciate Canadian values as well as they would if they’d learned them in small communities.”
Greene Raine spoke out in favour of Wilks’ election bid, telling those gathered that having a representative in government is crucial to getting federal funding dollars.
Wilks echoed the sentiment.
“The Build Canada fund, as with all funds, is always over-subscribed and there’s nothing you can do about that,” he said. “But we were able to get seven projects approved for this riding, which was immense.”
Wilks said he personally ensured the funds would end up in his riding.
“I went to the minister responsible not only for Build Canada but also for the Canada 150, I contacted them both and said ‘as you’re aware with the boundary redistribution this riding will now bring in Nelson, Kaslo and the majority of the Regional District of Central Kootenay.’ I said ‘I want to make a statement to the mayors and chairs of the riding that if you have a member of parliament in power, you can get things done’. You can get things done.”
He said he’s pleased with the outcome.
“I said to them ‘I want announcements for the Build Canada fund and the Canada 150 for the Nelson, Kaslo trench and that’s exactly what happened … and that was one week before they were announced. I wasn’t going to interfere with how the decision-making was going for the old riding of Kootenay-Columbia, but I wanted to make a point.”
And he believes that point has now been made.
“That’s what happens when you have a member of parliament in power.”
Although Wilks was in town for the brunch Wednesday, due to a scheduling conflict he was the lone candidate missing from a forum that evening at Nelson United Church on peace and security issues. The Star will carry a full account of that forum next week.
Greene Raine called Wilks a “wonderful man”.
“He’s got a lot of experience in his life, he’s solid as a rock, he’s kind-hearted and a hard worker. He’ll be open, you’ll be able to contact him. He’ll need help, of course, because the riding has changed, but I know he’ll have an open door.”
She assured everyone present the Kootenays remain close to her heart.
“Hopefully we’ll be back here in a few years celebrating, but I’ll be back in this neck of the woods no matter what. My brothers are still around here, and there’s nothing better than Kootenay Lake in the summertime with my grandkids.”