October 10, 2008 Features & Images » Feature Story

Chasing Chuck Strahl 

Pemberton strives to have impact within Chilliwack-Fraser Canyon

Pemberton could be forgiven for feeling a little jilted at federal election time.

By the grace of bureaucrats at Elections Canada, Pemberton lies at the westernmost point of Chilliwack-Fraser Canyon, a riding that includes communities as diverse as Lillooet, Hope and Harrison Hot Springs.

In the 2006 election, Pemberton accounted for 3.4 per cent of the votes cast in the riding and 1,444 votes in total — a small dent in this region, given that the last election saw a margin of more than 16,000 votes separate the winner from the first runner-up.

Pemberton’s place on the electoral map is almost comical for Mayor Jordan Sturdy, who said the village was placed in the riding without consulting the people who live there.

“It was done by some bureaucrat in Ottawa who looked at a map and said, oh look, the water in Pemberton goes to the Fraser Canyon!” he said. “In terms of our connection with community it makes no sense whatsoever. All of our orientation is south in this corridor.”

Pemberton, however, isn’t totally distinct within the riding. With acre upon acre of lush farmland and a significant First Nation living nearby, Pemberton has plenty in common with neighbours such as the In-SHUCK-ch Nation, a community of 908 members living along the Lillooet River and Harrison Lake.

It also shares much in common with Chilliwack, yet another B.C. community renowned for its vast farmland. All three belong to the Chilliwack-Fraser Canyon.

Pemberton has a lot less to be jilted about when it comes to its federal representative. Chuck Strahl has established himself as one of Canada’s most influential Members of Parliament and his constituents have given him landslide victories in five straight elections.

Though he doesn’t seem happy his community belongs to Chilliwack-Fraser Canyon, Sturdy nonetheless has glowing things to say about his Conservative MP.

“As an individual I have a lot of respect for Mr. Strahl,” he said. “He's communicative, he does visit Pemberton… he does his job and he does his job well. We could be certainly more poorly served.”

Strahl first ran as a member of the Reform Party, a western-oriented coalition that sought to bring a more grassroots conservative voice to Parliament at a time of successive Liberal majorities. In his first election he took the riding of Fraser Valley East by over 7,000 votes. At that time the riding did not extend to Pemberton.

That margin tripled in the 1997 election when he beat Liberal candidate John Les by over 21,000 votes. His margin of victory over his opponents reached a peak in 2000, when he won by almost 30,000 votes.

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