Familiar face leads race 

Strahl projects a kinder, gentler Conservative party while NDP Malcolm James champions health care, education

click to flip through (3) "I think the media is interested in my health because it’s a human interest story, but honestly no one, not even my opponents, have brought up my health in this campaign." Chuck Strahl, Conservative candidate. Photo submitted
  • "I think the media is interested in my health because it’s a human interest story, but honestly no one, not even my opponents, have brought up my health in this campaign." Chuck Strahl, Conservative candidate. Photo submitted
   
 

There are six candidates running in the Chilliwack-Fraser Canyon riding that encompasses Pemberton. If you can only name one of the politicians running, you are not alone. Come Jan. 23, Chuck Strahl will be the only name on the ballot that most voters recognize. The Conservative incumbent has what his challengers do not: experience.

Both the Liberals and NDP are running first time federal candidates, respectively Myra Sweeney and Malcolm James.

At 32, Sweeney is the youngest candidate being offered up in the relatively new Chilliwack-Fraser Canyon riding. Sweeney is a parole officer who previously worked in corrections at Kent. On her candidate profile the political experience she lists consists of three years with the University Model Parliament of British Columbia and attending Model United Nations Conference in New York. Nominated on Dec. 29, Sweeney has all the appearance of an 11 th -hour candidate, a placeholder for the Liberal Party. It is not surprising when a request for an interview goes unanswered.

NDP candidate James is also running federally for the first time. However, the adult educator and former archeologist has the benefit of having run in the past two provincial elections. He has also been president of the Chilliwack-Kent NDP Constituency Association since 2000. He clearly knows the game, albeit from an outsider’s perspective.

The Christian Heritage Party is once again offering journalist Ron Gray, whose credits include right-wing publication BC Report . Lawyer Dorothy-Jean O’Donnell, who garnered a scant 95 votes in 2004, is once again the Marxist-Leninist choice. And the Green Party has replaced Aisha Coghlan with Ed Baye.

Eighteen months ago when Canadians went to the polls these three parties (and the Marijuana Party, which is absent this time around) combined received less than half the votes garnered by the runner up to Strahl. Strahl attracted more than 24,000 votes while the NDP’s Rollie Keith received 9,244 votes, just over a 1,000 more than Liberal Bob Besner.

Obviously, at best, this is a three-party race, but taking past history into account it appears the riding is Strahl’s to lose.

Through 12 years in Ottawa, four terms, three party leaders, three party name changes, treatment for lung cancer (he’s currently asymptomatic) and incomprehensible riding boundary changes, Strahl has continued to represent the people of Chilliwack and the Fraser Valley. Since 2004, he has also represented the people of Pemberton, a turn of events he himself finds surprising.

"When the boundary change came back I was as surprised as anyone. It had no relation to what I had suggested," says Strahl.

Indeed, the Conservative MP had suggested that his riding be expanded to include Hope, a community accessible within a 30-minute drive of his Chilliwack office. The parliamentary committee that made the change is not subject to an appeal process. So, until it’s decided otherwise, Pemberton will be part of Chilliwack-Fraser Canyon riding.

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