Recent History – 2001
April 19, 2001
By Mark Nielsen, Daily News Staff
With the B.C. Premier calling a May 16 provincial election yesterday, voters in Peace River South will have at least four candidates to choose from when they head to the polls.
Dawson Creek Mayor Blair Lekstrom is running for the B.C. Liberals, former radio show host Grant Mitton for Social Credit, Chetwynd small business owner Elmer Kabush for the New Democrats, and Tumber Ridge oilpatch worker Garrett Golhoff for Unity B.C.
“I’m excited. It’s been a long time coming and I’m looking forward to it,” Lekstrom said.
With signs already up, an office already open, and radio spots being aired, Lekstrom is off to an early start in the 28-day campaign.
“I’ve run three municipal campaigns, thinking how much bigger could a provincial campaign be,” he said. “Well, it’s quite an eye-opener. It’s significantly larger.”
Running for MLA will mean that Lekstrom is stepping back from his role as mayor. His duties will be taken over by Councillors Bud Powell and Bob Gibbs for the duration of the campaign.
And if he wins, it means there will be a by-election in Dawson Creek to decide who the next mayor will be. Lekstrom reconfirmed a promise that he would cover the cost of the election that would otherwise be paid for by the city’s taxpayers.
“I think that if I’m the person that causes the election, then yes, I would look after that,” he said.
Lekstrom hopes that the tone will be less acrimonious than it has been at the provincial level.
“I think it’s hopefully going to be issued based and straight-forward,” he said. “I know Grant quite well. I consider him a friend. And I believe that he will probably look at it in the same view that I am.
“I am going to run on the issues that we have to offer, the ability that I think I can bring to the table to represent the people of Peace River South.”
Likewise, Mitton said he’s expecting an issues-oriented campaign. “We’re confident that we’re going to be able to put on a very credible campaign,” he said. “We plan to stick to the issues as we’ve identified them and as they’ve been identified by those people we’ve been talking to.”
Prime among them, Mitton said, are the situation for farmers in the province and the general downturn in the B.C. economy.
Unity B.C.’s Garrett Golhoff, who has a constituency office in Tumbler Ridge, says he’s ready. “I feel like I’m going to win,” he said. “We’ve got a very strong platform. We’ve got answers to just about everything that’s going on.”
Golhoff, 33, works as a surveyor in the oil patch, and moved to Tumbler Ridge about a year ago after living in Fort St. John for about two-and-a-half years.
Unity B.C. emerged from a falling out over the degree to which Reform B.C. should pursue a social agenda. Then-Reform B.C. leader Bill Vander Zalm left the party to form a coalition of neo-conservative groups with Chris Delanay at the helm.
Golhoff, who regards himself as middle-right on the political spectrum, believes that Unity B.C. best reflects what people want and need in the province.
“I read their platform and everything I believe in they believe in, I couldn’t believe it,” he said. “Instead of joining Alberta, we could do just a couple of things they done and bring B.C. back to the people.”
NDP candidate Elmer Kabush said he’s concerned that the B.C. Liberals are not going to be forced to say what they’re going to do during the campaign.
“The Liberals say tax cuts, and if the Liberals say tax cuts where’s the money going to come from to run education, where’s the money going to come from to run to run our social programs, where’s the money going to come from to run our medicare?” he said.
He added that a landslide victory will mean little or no opposition in the legislature. “And a Liberal government with a $23 billion budget and no opposition is not good news,” he said.