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Larsen resigns after drug past becomes an issue

NDP candidate says he's a victim of war on drugs

What had been an uneventful election campaign in West Vancouver-Sunshine Coast-Sea to Sky Country finally got interesting Wednesday with NDP candidate Dana Larsen announcing his resignation.

Larsen resigned after word got out that he used to work for a company that sold Peruvian coca seedlings. There are also videos of Larsen smoking marijuana and dropping acid on YouTube.

Larsen, who has not worked for the company since 2007, responded: “Stephen Harper is advancing another failed drug war in this country, and I do not want these harmless coca seedlings to become an issue for Harper’s campaign to sping against the NDP.”

A release from Larsen, the founder of the B.C. Marijuana Party, states that coca plants have been used for thousands of years in South America as a mild stimulant, similar to coffee. The release further states that “it is virtually impossible to produce cocaine from coca unless the coca is grown on a very large scale.”

“I believe in the benefits of medicinal plants like coca,” Larsen said in the release. “But I didn’t want this to distract from the campaign to elect Jack Layton as prime minister.”

“I do not want anything to distract from the important work of your New Democrats.”

It is not known if the NDP will nominate another candidate for the riding. Candidates must be nominated by Sept. 23 to run in the Oct. 14 election.

Meanwhile, John Weston, who has been the Conservative Party’s candidate for three and a half years, took advantage of his early start to get signs up and meet with constituency groups.

For some of those meetings he was accompanied by Diane Ablonczy, a Calgary MP and the Secretary of State for Small Business and Tourism, who was promoting the creation of a BizPal network for West Vancouver to streamline applications and certifications for entrepreneurs. For others he was accompanied by Coquitlam MP James Moore, who is the minister responsible for the Olympics and Pacific Gateway project.

The message, says Weston, is that the riding needs to have representation in Ottawa.

“In my meetings the issue of leadership comes up again and again,” he said. “We are contrasting the decisive leadership of Stephen Harper and the fact that he’s done so much for Canadians in the past two and a half years, versus the riskier and more indecisive option of Stephane Dion.

“People understand now that they need a voice in government (with the governing party), which is why I’ve brought so many MPs to the riding in the past few years… I’ve actually got a lot done for Whistler and the riding even though I wasn’t an MP.”

Weston pointed to the recent changes to immigration laws and the working visa program. Many visas are now valid for two years instead of one and Citizenship and Immigration Canada is giving higher priority to applicants with skills relevant to the tourism industry. Weston said those changes were achieved after he helped bring immigration minister Monte Solberg to Whistler to meet with the Whistler Chamber and other tourism industry representatives.

“The minister will tell you that he was strongly influenced by his meetings at Whistler,” said Weston.

The Conservatives have opened offices in Powell River, Sechelt and West Vancouver.

While Weston defers to the Conservative Party platform, he’s also keen to make the election local and discuss issues that are important to constituents.

The federal conservatives are definitely taking an interest in the riding, a former Conservative stronghold that they lost to Liberal Blair Wilson in the 2006 election by less than 1,000 votes. With Wilson’s ejection from the Liberal Party and recent decision to join the Green Party, there is a good opportunity to win back the seat.

Weston’s first Whistler appearance of the campaign is this Sunday, Sept. 21, at 11 a.m. at the home of John and Catherine Fraser. This is an informal meeting, giving people a chance to meet the candidate over coffee. Call Patrick McCurdy at 604-932-7782 to RSVP, or drop by the event at 6427 Balsam Way.

Liberal Party candidate Ian Sutherland, who was acclaimed on Sept. 6, is quickly getting up to speed in the race. A constituency office was opened on Marine Drive in West Vancouver this week, and the riding association is looking to open offices in Squamish, Sechelt and Powell River.

While Sutherland is putting his campaign team together, the Liberal Party released the first of three agendas for B.C. this week with sitting MPs highlighting issues of concern to B.C. voters. Issues in the first agenda, which focuses on social justice, include renewing the Insite safe injection facility in Vancouver, creating new daycare spots, an aboriginal policy that respects the Kelowna Accord, arts funding, and a national gang task force.

Sutherland will complete his second term as the mayor of Squamish in November. He and his wife Janet own a company that distributes textbooks across Canada, and they have two children.

The new website is at

Blair Wilson is the sitting MP for the riding, and had a rocky term. Last October he asked for an investigation into his campaign spending from Elections Canada after stories surfaced of improper spending. He was later exonerated of the charges but last December the party announced plans to sever ties with Wilson saying he did not fully answer questions during the party’s greenlighting process. Wilson denies the charge, but was sitting as an independent for more than 10 months when he joined the Green Party. He is the first Green MP, gave Green Party leader Elizabeth May a boost in her bid to be included in the federal all-candidates debate.

His campaign has been quiet so far, but with the Green Party’s biggest ever war chest and his own supporters, Wilson will be a presence in the campaign.