Former Tory seeks Sea to Sky Liberal nomination 

Daniel Veniez tired of Conservatives, wants to unseat John Weston

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A former Progressive Conservative is seeking the Liberal nomination in West Vancouver-Sunshine Coast-Sea to Sky Country.

Daniel Veniez, formerly the chair of Ridley Terminals and a former president of the Skeena Cellulose forestry company, said he's tired of the direction the country is taking under the Conservatives and wants to help get the Liberals into government.

"I'm at a point in my life where I've decided maybe enough's enough," he said. "Maybe as Teddy Roosevelt said, I should go into the arena."

Veniez, a Montrealer who now lives in Vancouver's west side, isn't all that new to the political arena. He attended the Liberal Party's national convention in 1982 and became vice-president of organization for the Young Liberals of Canada.

He later worked on former Prime Minister John Turner's leadership campaign but fell out with him over his move to the left. From there Veniez joined the Progressive Conservatives as Brian Mulroney swept to power and worked in that government under three cabinet ministers.

In 2007 he was recommended by then-Transportation Minister Lawrence Cannon for the chairmanship of Ridley Terminals Inc., a federal Crown corporation located in Prince Rupert that moves coal and other commodities from trains on to ships.

Veniez came head to head with the Harper government over his administration of Ridley Terminals in a series of events that led him to offer his resignation for Aug. 30, a process that the Conservatives accelerated up to mid-June.

Veniez was appointed to the job with a mandate to "clean the place up" and provide the government with some policy choices after the corporation was doing far less business than was expected of it. The former chair wrote in a May 2009 op-ed piece in the National Post that it was built for a capacity of 24 million tonnes but never exceeded five million tonnes of product.

"Over the previous 15 years, this business was being run into the ground," Veniez said.

At one point in his tenure at Ridley, Veniez wanted to end subsidies to what he calls "multibillion dollar" enterprises and charge them market rates for loading their material on to ships.

"These folks were getting deep, deep discounts, anywhere from 40 to 60 per cent off market rates," he said. "The taxpayers were subsidizing that at the expense of new equipment or new capital at the terminal. At the end of the day these jobs were in jeopardy because we weren't putting money back into the business."

That, he said, is what got him in trouble with the feds. The corporation started raising prices and the companies that initially benefited from those subsidies began raising concerns with federal ministers, as Veniez tells it. He and the board of Ridley Terminals later held a meeting in Ottawa with some Conservative cabinet ministers and explained to them why they were eliminating the subsidies.

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