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Whistler Councillor Jen Ford to seek NDP nomination

First elected in 2014, Ford’s resume includes time as UBCM president and SLRD board chair
Whistler Councillor and UBCM past president Jen Ford will seek the NDP nomination in the Sea to Sky in this October's provincial election.

Three-term Resort Municipality of Whistler (RMOW) Councillor Jen Ford is throwing her hat into the ring to be the local NDP candidate in the upcoming provincial election.

“I have been working in this community for a very long time, and I feel that my experience and my relationships not only in the corridor but within the province will serve our community well, and will serve the province of B.C. well after the next election,” she said in an interview with Pique.

Ford was first elected as an RMOW councillor in 2014 in what was her second attempt (having run in 2011 and failed to win office), and has since been re-elected twice (in 2018 and 2022), by increasing margins and raw vote-counts.

Besides her years on council, Ford’s resumé includes more than five years serving with the Union of BC Municipalities (including a year as president), five years as the chair of the Sea to Sky District Hospital Board, and chair of the Squamish-Lillooet Regional District board.

Ford has spent much of her tenure as a local politician and a rising star in municipal politics working under the yoke of the NDP government first elected in 2017, and she said much of what the party is doing matches what she is pushing for.

“The work that they have been doing is bold—some may say aggressive—on housing policy, and that is where I’ve done a lot of work advocating for this community,” she said.

“A lot of the work that they have been doing on childcare was work that I had been doing for years, and I’m really proud of the work that I’ve contributed to, and I’m really proud of the work they have put forth on childcare legislation. So I’d like to contribute to that work going forward.”

Ford’s position on the UBCM executive helped her develop a closer working relationship with the government, she said.

“My values and my priorities most align with the work that Premier [David] Eby has been doing. I’ve worked really closely with him and his caucus, and I feel strongly that they’re doing good work,” she said.

Her experience in municipal affairs aside, Ford said her focus during the campaign will be on issues she is well-acquainted with: Housing, childcare, health-care and affordability.

She currently serves as a director with the Whistler 360 Health Collaborative, the local health-care initiative created to help close gaps in community health.

“I’m really pleased with how we’ve received a ton of support from this community,” she said of the collaborative, which was founded in 2022.

Given she serves on so many boards and is an active RMOW councillor, Pique asked about the potential workload and challenges of juggling so many responsibilities—to which Ford responded by pointing to her track record.

“Much of the work we are all doing is teamwork, and I believe my record speaks for itself and I hope that that will lend itself well to the campaign,” she said.

A complication for the campaign on the human side is that the Green Party candidate, Jeremy Valeriote, is a friend, and also the husband of the RMOW’s chief administrative officer, Ginny Cullen.

Ford said it will be “tricky,” as she respects Cullen and works closely with her, and has known Valeriote since he worked as a councillor at the Town of Gibsons.

“I don’t see this as a confrontation or any kind of conflict,” Ford said.

“This is two people that both have the best interests of our community and our region at heart, and we’re both putting our hand up to do the work.”

With the NDP government seeking a third term, it is relatively long-in-tooth as a government, but Ford said the party still has new ideas.

“Yes it’s an old government, but [Eby is] a new premier, and they’ve put forward some really bold action items under their current mandate that are very positive for this province,” she said. “So I’m hopeful that I can join the work they are already doing.”

She said former Premier John Horgan set the stage for team-building, and Eby is continuing that work.

“I feel that Premier Eby is doing very similar team-building, but also taking action where it’s challenging, with housing legislation,” she said.

“We’ve done the same thing for a very long time with the same results, and now they’re changing the story and changing the way they’re doing things. Hopefully we get more results that deliver more housing for people, not only here but throughout the corridor and throughout British Columbia.”

Speaking of the corridor, the NDP has never had an MLA for this riding in its current iteration, nor in its predecessor as West Vancouver-Garibaldi. The last non-BC Liberal member for the region was John Reynolds, who was elected as a Social Credit MLA in the 1986 election representing West Vancouver-Howe Sound.

The historical aversion of the riding to the NDP didn’t faze Ford in her effort to carry the banner for the party.

“I think British Columbia has said the NDP is doing good work. I think our corridor is saying it wants someone in Government. I’m hopeful from what we’re seeing in polls and the actions the Government have put forward, that now is the time,” she said.

As of her announcement, Pique understands Ford is the only candidate seeking the NDP nomination. If she gets the nod, the party will declare her as its candidate at a later date.

Eight months out from the election, the suite of declared candidates for the riding is incomplete.

Incumbent Jordan Sturdy of BC United (formerly BC Liberal) is currently serving his third term as the local MLA, and recently announced he will not run again. The party is yet to announce a replacement candidate. Party leader Kevin Falcon will be in Squamish on March 7.

Given how close they came in 2020 (within 60 votes), the Greens, predictably, have decided to run Valeriote in the riding for a second time.

The Conservative Party of BC (no connection to the federal Conservative Party) is yet to announce a local candidate, but confirmed to Pique it intends to run a candidate in every riding across the province.

Ford will stay on as an RMOW councillor for the duration of the 2024 campaign. There is no requirement provincial candidates step down from other offices while actively campaigning.

The provincial election will be held on or before Oct. 19 this year.