North Coast NDP members chose Prince Rupert teacher Gary Coons as their candidate at a nomination meeting Saturday (Feb. 19).
Mr. Coons won the nomination over two other candidates, Russell Wiens and former islander Gloria Rendell.
NDP member Jennifer Davies of Prince Rupert said the Fisherman’s Hall there was packed Saturday afternoon for the event.
“Gary got in with a very good majority on the first ballot,” Ms Davies said, adding that over 200 NDP members voted, some by mail-in ballot. “It’s a good choice.”
Mr. Coons, speaking to the Observer Monday morning, said he was “humbled” by the victory, and that he will be on the islands within the next few weeks to introduce himself.
“I’m looking forward to getting out there and meeting people, hearing their stories,” he said. “”I will be coming out to the Charlottes at least twice,” (before the election).
A public school teacher for 27 years, Mr. Coons said he was spurred to run for the nomination by what he has seen in local classrooms since the Liberals were elected in 2001.
Cuts to education have hurt, but he’s also seen the effects of cuts to social services and women’s services reflected in the children at school.
“I’ve seen it in the classroom, the devastation of services, hitting the most vulnerable,” he said. “We need a voice, and right now we don’t have a voice reflecting the ordinary people.”
Mr. Coons said the Liberal government is now sitting on a $2.2-billion surplus, which he said is proof that cuts didn’t have to be made. With that kind of surplus, the government can definitely afford to spend more on education and health, he said.
Mr. Coons said he’s opposed to lifting the moratorium on oil and gas exploration in the ocean around the Charlottes, a pet project of the current government. He said the federal Priddle report found the majority of coastal residents opposed to lifting the moratorium, and that he favours other forms of economic development for the region.
The provincial election will be held May 17.
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