Liberals acclaim Kootenay-Columbia candidate

Don Johnston of Nelson to take on Wilks, Stetski and Green in upcoming federal election

  • May. 27, 2015 6:00 a.m.
Don Johnston

Don Johnston

Barry Coulter

And then there were four.

The Liberal Party of Canada will be represented in the riding of Kootenay-Columbia in the upcoming federal election, with the acclamation of Don Johnston of Nelson as candidate.

Johnston was officially acclaimed Wednesday in Nelson, a city which is for the first time part of the Kootenay-Columbia riding with recent redrawing of constituency boundaries. He will be running against Conservative David Wilks, NDP candidate Wayne Stetski and Green Party candidate Bill Green.

“What’s prompting me to run is a pretty high level of dissatisfaction with the current political situation in Canada, and in particular the ‘attitudinal issues’ towards democracy of this present government,” Johnston told the Townsman in an interview earlier this week.

“My entire personal history, professional and volunteer, has been if you see something you believe needs changing, then you have a responsibility to get involved at whatever level you can and in this particular situation this is the level that I’m getting involved in.”

Johnston grew up in the Kootenays and graduated from LV Rogers Senior Secondary in Nelson. He has had a 40-year career in community development, both within Canada and internationally. He has worked at the national level as President of Canada World Youth (CWY) and Canadian Executive Services Organization (CESO) and has served as the CEO of the Columbia Basin Trust. He has a Master of Arts degree in Leadership and Training from Royal Roads University in Victoria, British Columbia.

Johnston spoke further to his dissatisfaction with the current government.

“I think this government has become increasingly ideologically driven,” he said. “And really has gotten to a point where they’re simply not open even within their own caucus to influences — it’s really become a centralized party under the leadership of Mr. Harper. I think they’ve shown some real disrespect for the institutions like Parliament, like Question Period. “

The Conservative government’s use of omnibus bills are another example.

“The Liberal Party is committed to a much more open style of Parliament, where in fact free votes will be the norm rather than the rare exemption, where we will not use omnibus bills, in fact we will take a careful look a ways to make it more difficult to use omnibus bills or prorogation of Parliament,” Johnston said.

Nelson’s incorporation into Kootenay-Columbia changes the riding’s dynamics in a number of ways, Johnston said.

“The fact that the riding is now different changes a lot of the historical information and makes it a lot less clear about where we going in this particular election,” he said. “But there are a lot of different things that will come into play. But the diversity of this riding is not just east and west. Fernie is as different from Revelstoke as Creston is from Golden, and none of those places see themselves as Cranbrook or Nelson. I just don’t see that east/west split in the same way. I think it’s a really diverse riding with different issues in different parts of the riding.

“But we’re also all part of the Columbia Basin, and have been that way since the creation of the Columbia Basin Trust, so there’s a level of communication and understanding across the region, and a sense of common purpose and common need that didn’t exist before, and it’s getting stronger every year. So I think that changes the dynamic as well.”

“The other big dynamic we’re seeing is that this divisive, negative approach is starting to really take its toll on the Conservative Party. If we’re going to win this riding, and I truly believe we can, we’re going to have to draw significant vote away from the Conservative vote — which last election was 57 per cent. It’s not about vote splitting here, its about making sure people understand there’s an alternative that they’re comfortable with, to create change and to have an MP who can actually represent the riding and is positioned to do so.”

Johnston cites his skills and past experience as resume for running for the Liberals in Kootenay-Columbia.

“Eighty per cent of Canadians live in an urban environment, and (rural MPs) need to be loud and clear about what we need to do to lobby for the interests of people who live in a rural environment. My set of skills and understanding of the tremendous diversity of this riding will be a valuable asset.”

Johnston will be in Cranbrook on May 29, hosting an open house — a “Meet the Liberal Candidate,” from 5 p.m to 7 p.m. “I encourage anyone who is interested in this election and is interested in meeting the Liberal candidate and finding out what some of our priorities are to come out. This is a reception for people in Cranbrook, who are interested in meeting me and having a dialogue.

“We also invite people to contact us, if they want to speak directly to me or if they want responses to questions and concerns they have, or if they want to invite us to a specific event in their community. We’re going to be accessible, and we welcome that kind of feedback, and we certainly welcome invitations.”

Liberal candidate Don Johnston can be contacted at 250-551-7789, or at