Meet the Conservative, Christian Heritage and Green Party candidates

  • Apr. 13, 2011 3:00 p.m.

The Terrace businessman who is running for the Conservatives in the federal election says he got the idea of putting his name forward during a visit to Ottawa about 18 months ago, Alex Rinfret writes. Clay Harmon said he met up with an old friend who is now a Conservative MP from southern Ontario. His friend asked him how things were going in his own riding. When Mr. Harmon responded that the riding had an NDP MP, the friend asked him what he was going to do about that. The answer, it turns out, is that by June of last year Mr. Harmon had become the region’s Conservative candidate, and was ready to hit the campaign trail as soon as the election was called last month. Campaigning in a riding as vast as Skeena-Bulkley Valley is “intense”, Mr. Harmon said, but “I’m feeling a really warm reception from all the folks I meet… I’m hearing that it’s time for a change.” Mr. Harmon said he and many of the voters he’s been talking to believe that Skeena-Bulkley Valley would be better off if its MP was part of the government, rather than the opposition. He said the Conservatives aren’t afraid of making tough financial decisions and that the party has a long-term vision. “They’re making decisions that are going to affect my grandchildren in many years to come,” he said. “They’re thinking years ahead.” Mr. Harmon is an accountant who has lived in northern BC for the past five years, working as a consultant, much of the time in First Nations communities. He now lives in Terrace. He does have some previous political experience. In the 2000 federal election, he ran as an independent candidate (unofficially affiliated with the Christian Heritage Party) in the Okanagan-Coquihalla riding. Mr. Harmon finished last in a field of 10 candidates with 95 votes, just behind the Marxist-Leninist and Natural Law candidates. He said he decided to run for the Conservatives rather than the Christian Heritage Party this time around because he would have more influence to change things as part of the government. “We believe that if we want to make a difference, we have to be part of the process,” he said. So far this campaign, he has visited Fort St. James, travelled along Highway 16 to Prince Rupert, and been to Kitimat. He was on Haida Gwaii last summer (he went on a fishing trip and visited Skedans), and is not sure whether he will be able to visit the islands before the election May 2. Mr. Harmon said his experience as a small business owner and as a consultant with wide experience in various First Nations villages should make him appealing both to First Nations voters and the business community. “I can listen with an understanding ear to just about anyone,” he said. “I will listen and advocate on behalf of any citizen of the riding.” Meanwhile, Telkwa resident Rod Taylor is running as the Christian Heritage Party candidate for the fourth election in a row. Mr. Taylor, the deputy leader of the party, said CHP is the only party in Canada that is fully opposed to abortion. “I’m getting tired of the things in the country that need to change that aren’t changing,” he said, referring to abortion. “We continue to kill 100,000 babies a year.” Christian Heritage has policies designed to strengthen traditional marriage, families and home life, Mr. Taylor explained. The party is also concerned with Canada’s growing debt and the increasing size of government. Mr. Taylor said he’s well aware that he won’t win the election, but that it’s important to offer a choice for voters who share the Christian Heritage Party’s values. Right now, the CHP is the sixth largest party in Canada in terms of votes and members, Mr. Taylor said, and is the largest party not receiving government money (the Conservatives, Liberals, NDP, Bloc Quebecois and Green Party all get funding based on the number of votes they receive). Interestingly, Skeena-Bulkley Valley is the CHP’s strongest riding, Mr. Taylor said. He has received between 3.2 and 3.8 percent of the vote in the last three elections, the best showing of any CHP candidate in Canada. While some people might think there are some similarities between the Conservative Party and the CHP, Mr. Taylor is quick to set them straight. “We tell people if they want a vote that is truly conservative, we’re the only ones left,” he said. The Conservatives under Stephen Harper have retreated from the abortion debate and some Conservative MPs even voted in favour of Bill C-389, legislation around transgender and transsexual rights, which Mr. Taylor calls the “bathroom bill” (the bill had not received all its readings when the election was called, so none of its provisions are in effect). The CHP believes the bill could allow men to use public washrooms set aside for women. “We are concerned that young girls and women may find they have men in their washrooms that they can’t do anything about,” Mr. Taylor said. “It’s a bogus human rights issue.” The CHP also has a very different platform on crime and justice than any other party. They would like to see only seriously violent offenders sentenced to jail, with those convicted of property crimes making restitution instead. This would save Canadians from the expense of building more jails, Mr. Taylor said. Smithers resident Roger Benham is running for the Green Party for the second time, having also been a candidate in 2004. Mr. Benham said he has been to Haida Gwaii twice but doesn’t think he will visit during the campaign as funds are limited. “I am essentially providing a platform for people to vote Green, that’s my main reason for running,” Mr. Benham said. “I realize I will not be winning.” Pollution, global warming and the increasing demand for oil are all issues that concern Mr. Benham, and that the Green Party would like to address. “We need to prepare for coming times and the Green Party is the only party that can provide that,” he said. “Food prices are going to get worse and worse, there will be an increased demand for oil… I am already seeing amazing rises in price for transportation of the foods we eat, I imagine that is of some concern to you on the islands.” The election is Monday May 2.