Former federal MP Wayne Stetski is running as the BC NDP candidate for Kootenay East in the upcoming provincial election.
Stetski served one term as the parliamentarian for Kootenay-Columbia parliamentarian for four years, wresting the federal riding from the Conservatives in 2015, however, his re-election bid last year came up short.
Following the federal election, Stetski said he was still passionate about public service, during an interview with Black Press Media, deciding to step into provincial politics after attending an annual BC NDP convention last November.
“When you look at going forward here in Kootenay East, we heard for many, many years in the past how important it is to have an MLA as part of government,” Stetski said. “I’m very convinced that John Horgan will be the next premier of the province and I want to help the people of Kootenay East as their elected MLA in government.”
Prior to his entry into federal politics, Stetski first sought municipal office in 2008, running for Cranbrook mayor. Though he lost that election, he ran again in 2011 and won, serving a three-year term.
Stetski cited health care, both through the lens of COVID-19 and beyond, as a key issue during the campaign, along with wildlife management, education, supporting small business and climate change.
Noting a shortage of family doctors in the area, Stetski highlighted the work of a ‘Red Carpet Committee’ that was created during his mayoral tenure to assist with recruiting efforts, which saw some success in attracting physicians to the area.
Declining wildlife populations is another area of concern, according to Stetski, referring back to his career as a regional manager for fish, wildlife, ecosystems and parks with the provincial environment ministry.
“We really need to get the populations back up and there are a number of ways, potentially to do that, but most importantly, we need to bring control on wildlife decisions and regulations back to the region,” he said.
Stetski also pledged to support small businesses, following up with regional forums he held during his federal tenure and adding that businesses and non-profit organizations need certainty and predictability in the COVID-19 era.
“What I’d like to see is a plan for small businesses so that they know, for example, if COVID infection numbers reach a certain level, they can expect ‘X’ to happen,” Stetski said. “Have that all there ahead of time so that they can watch the numbers and not be surprised by what happens to them next.”
On the education front, Stetski pushed the need for a new school in Fernie due to increased student population growth, as well as major renovations to Mount Baker Secondary School in Cranbrook.
Calling climate change the greatest long term challenge, Stetski lauded the Clean BC strategy that was created under the NDP government as one of the nation’s most ‘ambitious’ climate action plans.
“We need to ensure that we actually meet the targets in that plan and see how we can do better,” he said.
Stetski will be running against BC Liberal incumbent Tom Shypitka, who won the riding in the last provincial election in 2017, stepping into the role from Bill Bennett, who retired after serving the region as MLA for 17 years.
The BC Liberals have held the riding since 2001, when Bennett defeated the then-incumbent NDP MLA Erda Walsh.
The 2020 B.C. Election will be held on Oct. 24.