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Penticton environmentalist Richard Cannings to seek federal NDP nomination
Penticton environmentalist Richard Cannings announced Monday he plans to seek the NDP nomination in the new federal riding of South Okanagan-West Kootenay (SOWK).
With current MP Alex Atamanenko having announced last year that he won’t be seeking reelection, several contenders from the NDP and Conservatives have said they intend to run for the seat if nominated.
So far only one other contender, Margaret Maximenko, of Christina Lake, has announced plans to seek the NDP nomination, but both she and Cannings have said they have heard talk of at least one other person considering it.
Cannings ran last May provincially for the NDP in Penticton, but lost to B.C. Liberal Dan Ashton by nearly 1,400 votes.
The biologist, who has authored numerous books about nature and birds, said that prior to the provincial election, he had never run for public office.
He decided to run federally because some of the issues he cares most about come under federal jurisdiction and he found the same was true for many people when he went door to door in the provincial election.
“I enjoyed it and I learned a lot,” he said of his previous run. “When I was knocking on doors in the provincial campaign and I asked people what were their issues, they would start rattling off issues that were federal as if they didn’t really care about provincial politics. What they really cared about was what’s going on in Ottawa.”
Cannings said that as a scientist, biologist and ecologist, some of the issues he cares most about are climate change and rapid resource development.
People perceive that the Conservative federal government is ramming through projects like the Northern Gateway Pipeline without regard for local people, he said, adding that the Stephen Harper government has labeled pipeline opponents as “terrorists.”
“I just thought both the direction of that policy and the tone of it was completely wrong,” he said.
Despite never having held public office and having worked primarily on environmental issues, Cannings said he gained experience in a quasi-judicial role working for 11 years with the B.C. Environmental Appeal Board and five years with the B.C. Forest Appeals Commission.
“I was sitting like a judge and you had to listen carefully while people explained their problems and issues,” he said. “You had to make a reasoned judgment and write a decision that would stand up in Supreme Court really. That taught me a lot about not just listening, but about how the judicial system works and also what problems people were having with government.”
Cannings acknowledges that SOWK is a large and diverse riding, but said he’s also gotten to know the eastern portion through his work and because his wife Margaret Holm’s family comes from the Grand Forks and Christina Lake area.
While he doesn’t have a long history of activism with the NDP other than his provincial election bid, he said he’s voted for the party “pretty much all my life.”
The party has not yet set a date for the nomination, but Cannings said it could come around March.