The Kootenay East branch of the NDP has nominated former federal MP Wayne Stetski to contest the upcoming provincial election for the party.
Stetski previously sat as the MP for Kootenay-Columbia between 2015 and 2019 and served as the Mayor of Cranbrook for one term.
In an interview with The Free Press, Stetski touched on policy and programs relevant to residents of the Elk Valley, saying his top three priorities he’d be campaigning on were health, wildlife and hunting, and education. He also said that if elected, he’d work to set up a part-time constituency office in the Elk Valley post-COVID.
On health, he said that it was important BC could stay the course given it had “basically lead the country and been recognized country-wide for the great work that government and Dr Henry have done.”
He said that a longer-term strategy he had championed during his time as mayor of Cranbrook to attract general practitioners to the riding could be able to help with tackling the pandemic going forward.
On wildlife and hunting, Stetski – whose previous career was in parks, wildlife and ecosystems said “its important for the people in the riding to know that having been involved in the environment and wildlife my entire life, that I will always be there for wildlife and for local knowledge and using local knowledge to benefit wildlife. And I will always be there for people who hunt and fish.”
He also said that if elected he would campaign for a new secondary school to be built in Fernie.
“Fernie has had a real growth in young people and families coming into the community, to the point of where their elementary school has nine portables to try and handle the number of kids … we need to absolutely need to keep working on that for Fernie going forward.”
Along with his top tree priorities for the immediate campaign, Stetski said a major focus would be working together with Teck and supporting the mining communities of the Elk Valley.
“I have always been supportive of the Elk Valley mines, and the miners and the many many people that earn their living working in those mines. The only suggestions or concerns that I have brought up in the past have been, I would much prefer if we could create the steel right here in Canada rather than having it created in China and Japan and buying that steel back.
“Of course, we do need to deal with the selenium issue in the rivers, but I know Teck is working very hard to try and resolve that issue.”
On the double environmental assessments being carried out on Teck’s Castle Project, Stetski indicated he was supportive of environmental assessments as they were designed to make major projects as environmentally friendly as possible.
“In the end the intent is to make (mining projects) work for the environment as well as for the future,” he said, adding that relationships he had built in Ottawa during his time as MP would help with discussions around mining operations in the valley.
Stetski also touched on housing affordability in Fernie, saying that it was important for provincial and federal programs to step up.
“It should not fall to municipalities and municipal taxpayers in my mind to have to work on affordable housing – although there’s pressure to do that,” he said.
“We do need to rely on infrastructure funding from the provincial and federal governments.”
Finally, he said it was growing more important as time went on for communities to lock down food security and local food initiatives.
“We’ve got to move away from a geo-global approach to buying food,” he said.
If elected, Stetski also said he would be looking in to setting up a part-time constituency office in the Elk Valley after COVID-19 was under control.
He said it was important to have an office in the Elk Valley so that constituents didn’t have to drive to Cranbook, though this effort was dependent on funding available.
“I need to review the budget for the Kootenay East MLA but this is a priority for me.”
The provincial election will be held on Oct. 24.
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