Newly elected MLA elated

  • May. 25, 2005 11:00 a.m.

MLA-elect Gary Coons is off to Vancouver this week for his very first NDP caucus meeting, but he says he wants to visit the Charlottes again as soon as he can.
After a somewhat exhausting three-month campaign, Mr. Coons hit the road again just two days after the May 17 election, flying to Bella Bella and Bella Coola with federal MP Nathan Cullen.
An elated Mr. Coons said he is “still trying to come to terms” with his victory, which saw him win the North Coast riding by a solid margin over incumbent MLA Bill Belsey. But he said in some ways, the win was not a big surprise, given what he heard while campaigning.
“I was in most of the communities and I was going door to door and talking to people,” he said. “They wanted a more balanced government that would put people’s needs before big business.”
Mr. Coons said the NDP won in most of the coastal ridings, where people have been voicing more and more misgivings about open net fish farms. Fish farms and their effect on wild salmon stocks are the number one concern in this riding, he said.
“The goal here is to work with communities and get closed containment policies,” he said, adding that no fish farms have been proposed for the waters around Haida Gwaii.
He said he has not yet heard from Mr. Belsey, but Green candidate Hondo Arendt offered his congratulations at the NDP’s election night celebration at Fishermen’s Hall in Prince Rupert.
NDP leader Carol James telephoned her congratulations the next day, he said. He’s looking forward to meeting her and the rest of his NDP colleagues this week in Vancouver. After that, he’ll be off to Victoria for the swearing-in, probably in mid-June.
Meanwhile, Mr. Arendt said he was satisfied with the Green Party performance in this riding, noting that the party went from five percent of the votes in 2001 to six percent this time. The Greens did particularly well on the islands, where they took 11-percent of the votes, even though Mr. Arendt didn’t do any campaigning.
The candidate noted that the Greens got more bang for their buck then the other parties, spending just $1 for every $200 spent by the Liberals. The Green campaign was almost entirely funded by a woman from the Charlottes who sent a cheque for $250, he said.
“For me, it was a very interesting experience. I kind of enjoyed it,” he said. “I learned a lot about the ins and outs of the political process.”