October 10, 2008 Features & Images » Feature Story

Chasing Chuck Strahl 

Pemberton strives to have impact within Chilliwack-Fraser Canyon

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There’s little doubt that Strahl expects to take the riding again, but he doesn’t say so when asked how he’s managed to hold it for so long.

“I think my politics and my policies that I’ve advocated for the most part… are what a lot of people believe in this riding,” he said in an interview with Pique .

If an address to an all-candidates meeting at Pemberton Secondary School last Friday is an indication, those politics include modest spending and a tough stance on crime.

At the meeting, where he drew the most enthusiastic response upon introduction (though not exactly a rockstar’s welcome from an audience of teenagers), he cited national unity and a federal deficit as his reasons for getting into politics. But the federal justice system was also a sticking point.

“There seemed to be a movement afoot that we had to specifically address rehabilitation of offenders and that became a priority,” he told his audience. “What we said is we had to rebalance that. Rehabilitation was important, and alternate sentencing and so on was important, but it was also important to send a message that we’re not going to put up with violent crime.

“A lot of those issues that got me into politics are still important today.”

Conservative policies on crime are an even bigger sticking point for Myra Sweeney, a second-time Liberal candidate in Chilliwack-Fraser Canyon. She came in third in the 2006 election but is running again, this time drawing on her experience as a parole officer to stick it to the Tories for their harsh stance on crime.

“The seven years I've been in corrections, I’ve noticed we're getting more offenders that need mental health addressed,” she said in an interview.

“We were starting to know who needed neurological psych assessments, better treatment, who we needed to finally contact and say, you know what, this is a medication issue, let’s get him stabilized, let’s get him the right resources that he needed in the community.”

When asked what chance she has at beating Strahl, she says she has “just as good” a chance as last time out, when she missed the mark by 15,989 votes.

Speaking at the all-candidates meeting, she drew on her youth in an attempt to engage a teen audience. She told them about her work with prisoners from Abbotsford’s Matsqui Institution, a medium-security prison, as well as Kent Institution in Agassiz.

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