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John Slater plans return to Osoyoos municipal politics
The former longtime mayor and veteran town council with the Town of Osoyoos has announced he is returning to politics.
John Slater confirmed last week that he would be running for public office in the upcoming municipal election in November.
What Slater hasn’t decided is if he is going to run against Mayor Stu Wells, who has confirmed he will be seeking re-election, or for a seat on town council.
Slater was the mayor of Osoyoos for six years before making the jump to provincial politics. Before becoming mayor, he served as a member of town council for 12 years.
“I’m not sure if I’m going to run for mayor or for a council seat and I won’t make up my mind until I keep talking to a few more people around town and listen to what they have to say,” said Slater, who was in Victoria attending his daughter’s graduation from the University of Victoria last week when he announced he was going to be returning to municipal politics.
While he hinted he would more than likely be seeking a council seat, Slater said the only reason he would run for mayor is the position also includes being part of the board of directors with the Okanagan Basin Water Board as well as the Regional District of Okanagan Similkameen.
“If I were to become mayor again, you get those positions with the water board and the RDOS and you get to make an impact there and you really don’t have that opportunity as a councillor,” he said. “Like I said, I’m not sure what I’m going to do yet when it comes to running for mayor or a spot on council and I likely won’t make any final decision until I have to officially file my nomination papers in August.”
Slater has been out of politics – and more or less out of the public spotlight – since resigning his seat as an MLA in late January of last year.
Slater had announced he would be running as an independent in last May’s provincial election after resigning from the Liberal Party.
The Liberals announced they would be bringing in another candidate to run in the Boundary-Similkameen riding and would not support Slater in his re-election bid, citing “personal issues” with Slater.
On the same day Slater announced his resignation as an MLA, Oliver school teacher Marji Basso, abruptly announced her resignation as the NDP candidate for Boundary-Similkameen.
Slater issued a tersely-worded news release after announcing his resignation, “citing the politics of personal destruction” to his reputation as a reason.
Linda Larson, a former mayor of Oliver and then member of Oliver town council, was brought in as the local Liberal candidate and waltzed to an easy victory in last May’s provincial election.
At the time, Slater didn’t deny that he had struggled with alcohol abuse in the past, but insisted that it had never affected his decision-making as a local MLA or his work representing constituents in his riding.
Slater and Basso resigned within hours of each other after well-known political blogger Alex G. Tsakumis claimed he had “very disturbing information, exceedingly disturbing information that, if published, would hand the provincial riding of Boundary-Similkameen to Linda Larson of the B.C. Liberals.”
Tsakumis threatened to release the information if he didn’t hear from Basso or Slater.
Slater and Basso announced their resignation a couple of days later and Tsukamis never revealed the allegations he hinted at in his blog.
Slater said last January that his resignation and the controversy surrounding his last few months in office were very difficult to deal with.
“This past couple of weeks have been an extremely emotional rollercoaster for me,” he said. “This brutal experience has show me how tough fear and fear-based politics can be on people and their families. It is too high a price to pay, at least for me.
“We have reached a profoundly disturbing point in our politics in British Columbia. Instead of a campaign about positive ideas, good policy and what is best for British Columbians, we are instead witnessing a campaign based on fear and smear. B.C. deserves better.
“I cannot put my family or myself though the continual barrage of innuendos and smear which have been launched against me and which will continue until I withdraw as a candidate in the upcoming provincial election. So I say, ‘enough’.”
Slater said he loved working for 40 months as an MLA and was grateful to all of those who supported him during those final controversial weeks in office.
Slater said he is in the process of reviving his Osoyoos business, called Desert Edge Nursery, which he has owned since 1993.
“The business currently isn’t running, but I’m working on getting it back in business,” he said. “I think there’s a demand for it and I’m going to try and get it back up and running as soon as I can.”
Slater said he wouldn’t be negative about the current council as he believes they have done a good job over the past three years since the last municipal election.
However, one area where he believes they have come up short is in creating a positive environment for local small businesses to succeed, said Slater.
“I’m worried there are too many empty stores on Main Street and other parts of town,” he said. “People are a little scared and they want these local businesses to be succeeding instead of closing down.
“I do think we need to diversify our economic base and make sure our local businesses can succeed and create conditions to attract more small businesses to our community.”
The pending construction of the South Okanagan Correctional Centre is going to be very good news for this community for years to come, said Slater.
“People who are building the jail and then running the jail are going to be buying homes in Osoyoos and Oliver … and it’s going to have a real positive impact on these communities,” he said. “It’s going to mean more kids in our schools and more people buying goods and services from our businesses and hopefully more amenities coming to our town.
“It will be exciting news for our town and I’m hoping to be part of it as a member of council.”