Liberal candidate Miles Richardson was in Masset Sunday for the official start of the federal election campaign, riding a white jeep in the Harbour Days parade, then mingling with the crowds and handing out campaign pins, Alex Rinfret writes.
“I wanted to be on Haida Gwaii as the campaign kicked off,” he told the Observer Monday afternoon. “I’m from here, this is my home.”
Prime Minister Martin called the June 28 election on Sunday.
Mr. Richardson, who was president of the Council of the Haida Nation for 12 years and served as chief commissioner of the BC Treaty Commission from 1998 until March, is being called “the biggest name to run in this riding ever” on one election prediction website.
He said he first started thinking about running for a federal seat last summer, after becoming increasingly concerned about the northwest’s faltering economy.
“It’s been frustrating to sit here and watch our economy weaken,” he said, adding that children who grow up here have to leave home to have a satisfying career. “I just thought it’s time that I pitch in and do my part.”
His decision was cemented after he met Prime Minister Paul Martin face to face earlier this year. Mr. Richardson praised Mr. Martin as a visionary leader who will tackle tough issues like western alienation and First Nations. The prime minister told him he was “ashamed” of the relationship between Canada and its aboriginal people, and is dedicated to resolving it.
“He wants me there to work with him,” Mr. Richardson said, adding that there is a good chance Mr. Martin will visit this riding at some point before the June 28 election.
As for the sponsorship scandal which has plagued the Liberals, Mr. Richardson said he shares voters’ concerns: “I’m as mad about that as any other Canadian. I think it’s wrong. I know the prime minister sees that as wrong. He is committed to taking strong action to clean up this culture of corruption in OttawaÂ… Waste in government is not acceptable.”
If he’s elected, Mr. Richardson said he will make sure Skeena-Bulkley Valley gets help from Ottawa to modernize its economy. One of the biggest issues for this region, he said, is the container port for Prince Rupert, which would spur secondary manufacturing of forest products throughout the northwest. The fishing industry is another big issue which needs attention from the federal government, he said, as is tourism.
“Tourism is a huge untapped potential in this part of the world, particularly here on Haida Gwaii,” he said. However, developing it requires building infrastructure and transforming the communications system.
“We need support and some help in terms of modernizing the economy,” he said. “For 100 years we’ve been giving and giving and giving to Canada and BC through our resource economyÂ… We’re not asking for handouts. All we’re asking for is our fair share.”
Mr. Richardson has stated that lifting the federal moratorium on offshore oil and gas development should not be rejected, even though many islanders have spoken out against it. On Monday, he told the Observer that he is not satisfied with the federal process so far, which has involved a scientific review panel (which released a report in February), a public review panel (which is working on a report), and a First Nations consultation.
“I think that it’s insufficient,” he said. “That process isn’t going to provide sufficient consensus.”
Mr. Richardson said there are substantial issues which must be settled before industry will even consider exploring Hecate Strait, including aboriginal title. That said, he believes the federal government should proceed to get more information and then make a decision.
Since winning the Liberal nomination at the end of March, Mr. Richardson has been criss-crossing the riding, one of the largest in Canada, and has set up campaign offices in Prince Rupert, Terrace, Kitimat and Burns Lake.
His biggest strength, he said, is his ability to help people and communities work together.
“I think I bring a lot to the table in that regard,” he said. “I’ve spent my career building bridges between people.”
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