Islanders won’t see Conservative candidate Mike Scott here until after Christmas, but he’s already campaigning hard on the mainland for the Jan. 23 federal election.
Mr. Scott told the Observer Monday that he was in Prince Rupert last week and is spending time in Kitimat and Terrace this week, before heading west into the interior of the huge Skeena-Bulkley Valley riding.
“We’ll be hitting as many communities as we can before Christmas,” he said, then taking a break for the holidays.
He said he will definitely be coming to the islands, but that visit will likely be in January.
Mr. Scott is an experienced campaigner, having been elected as MP here in 1993 and 1997 under the Reform banner. He didn’t run in 2000, saying he wanted to return to private life and his construction business in Terrace. But he decided to return to politics because so many people have been urging him to run since Conservative MP Andy Burton was defeated by the NDP’s Nathan Cullen in the last election.
“Our current MP is very much an environmentalist,” Mr. Scott said. “I feel there’s a real disconnect between Mr. Cullen and what’s going onÂ… That’s what’s driven me to get back into political life.”
Mr. Scott said this riding faces severe economic challenges and that encouraging big industry – petrochemical, mining and logging – is vital, or we will continue to watch our population dwindle.
“If we don’t have big industry, we don’t have small business,” he said, and this in turn causes the loss of schools and other community infrastructure.
Mr. Scott also attacked Mr. Cullen for not being a lifelong resident of the area, as he is.
“He’s not even from here, he’s from Ontario,” he said. “The people of Skeena deserve to know he’s not from here.”
Mr. Scott said the MP needs to be more supportive of industry initiatives in the area, for example the Tulsequah Chief mine north of Atlin. He said mine owners Redfern Resources have faced all sorts of obstacles in their 12-year quest to have the mine re-opened, including from environmental groups and the Taku River Tlingit (the Tlingit legal challenge to the approval process was twinned with the Haida Nation’s TFL 39 case and went to the Supreme Court of Canada). He criticized Mr. Cullen for raising concerns about the DFO approval of a road there earlier this year instead of supporting the project.
“The bottom line is for these people, no amount of consultation will ever be enough,” he said. “He’s against everything, everything that revolves around our resource industries.”
Mining offers “a real opportunity” for the northwest, he said. He was more cautious on the issue of offshore oil and gas exploration and development in Hecate Strait, currently subject to a federal moratorium.
He noted that exploration is different from drilling, and that the offshore oil industry has been good for the east coast.
“I’m of the view that first of all, we don’t know what’s there,” he said. “We’re talking about having a peek under the covers to find out.”
He also said he would follow the wishes of his constituents on this issue.
Meanwhile, he said Conservative Party headquarters definitely sees this riding as a potential win, and we may see a visit from leader Stephen Harper. The NDP won in 2004 by less than 1,300 votes (just 3-percent of all votes cast) over the Conservatives.
“This is a riding the Conservatives very much feel can be won and will be won,” he said.
Interestingly, the right-wing Christian Heritage Party, received 1,400 votes in the last election – votes which could potentially have given the Conservatives a win. However, Mr. Scott said he will not be telling people to vote strategically.
“I think you should vote for people who will do a good job of representing you,” he said. “I have never voted strategically and I never would tell anyone else to.”
Mr. Scott said he has now opened campaign offices in Terrace, Kitimat and Prince Rupert, and has plans to open one in Smithers and possibly one in Burns Lake.
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