With the next provincial election 10 months away, another Cranbrook City Councillor has put their name into the ring, hoping to secure the Liberal nomination for MLA.
Last week, Tom Shypitka announced his intentions for the Liberal nomination, pitting himself against former Conservative MP David Wilks for the position.
Shypitka credits his strong ties to the Kootenay East area as making him a solid candidate for the position.
“I was born and raised in Cranbook. My dad was born in West Fernie, my mom was born in Cranbook. We are all from the Kootenays; it goes back four generations,” he told The Free Press. “This is where I was born, this is where I will probably die and this is what I want to protect.”
Shypitka is a first-term councillor for the City of Cranbrook and works as a financial advisor for Sun Life Financial. He says he is prepared to put in the work to make his name more familiar to Elk Valley voters.
“It’s just going to be good old fashioned door knocking. It’s rolling up your sleeves. That is what I have been doing in Cranbrook here in the last couple of days,” he said. “There is no big political agenda or anything like that. There is just getting people to feel comfortable with who I am and for me it’s just getting to know the people out there. It’s nothing short of just hard work right now.”
Shypitka does know he is young in his political career, but in his speech announcing his bid, he addressed his political experience.
“My short political career has taught me that the biggest ally that you can have is an ear for listening, a heart to truly care and to be respectful of others and their opinions,” he said, adding current MLA Bill Bennett had limited political experience when he was elected 15 years ago.
According to Shypitka, the biggest issues to him in the Kootenay East riding are protecting the coal mining industry and the use of the natural surroundings.
“The biggest issues for me, and obviously there is no shortage of them, but industry is one of them,” he said. “Our coal mines, we have got to keep those going. They have been under recent attack on some issues up there and there are some forces at work to shut them down. Just because I’m from Cranbrook doesn’t mean that those mines don’t affect me, because they do. I sit on City Council here and I know that there are 400 families that would be directly affected and the ripple effect would be huge. We just cannot let those industries fall. There is no way – I would fight for that.”
When it comes to the use of the surrounding mountains, Shypitka says it is important to seek a balance between all of the groups who use the areas.
“The reason we all live here is because of what is around us and there are hunters, there are hikers, there are guide outfitters, everyone of them are land users and every one of those groups want it for themselves,” he said. “That would be one of my biggest issues is to try to find that balance, to try to make it as available for as many people as possible.”
Shypitka also cited fire mitigation as a priority for him.
What Shypitka hopes for the Kootenay-East constituency is unity, and not an us vs. them mentality.
“I’m all for the Elk Valley because I know what is good for Sparwood is good for Cranbrook, what is good for Elko is good for Elkford,” he said. “We have to brand this region. This isn’t Sparwood, this isn’t Cranbook, this isn’t Fernie. This is a region.”