A Cranbrook city councillor is eyeing the jump to provincial politics, as Tom Shypitka has announced his intent to run for the B.C. Liberal nomination in the Kootenay East riding.
Shypitka, who was elected into municipal office in 2014, has deep ties to the region and is eager for the opportunity to make the leap from civic to provincial politics.
“At the municipal level, at the local level, you can help out, but only to a certain degree,” said Shypitka. “We go to UBCM (Union of British Columbia Municipalities) and we pitch our cases for what is needed in our area and we are geographically different than down on the coast and so our issues are different.
“At a provincial level, as an MLA, I’ll be able to address those issues firsthand. I can get to those issues, and in turn, help the electorate in this region.”
Shypitka made the announcement on Wednesday evening with a throng of supporters at the Cranbrook Curling Club. He is the is the second candidate to get into the race for the B.C. Liberal nomination, following former Kootenay-Columbia MP David Wilks’ announcement late last week.
Even though his time on city council has been relatively short, he’s learned some valuable lessons that he can draw from in his quest to become the B.C. Liberal nominee and the region’s MLA.
“First thing I’ve taken away from city council and the Regional District [of East Kootenay] is learning to really listen,” Shypitka said. “It’s one thing to have one ear open, but you’ve got to have them both open.
“And common sense. A common sense approach is huge. I find in the short term that I’ve been doing this is that’s not always the case. A lot of the times it’s just knowing the facts and doing a little research, doing a little digging and talking to constituents or the land owner or the property owner and finding out what their take is.”
Shypitka sees land use issues around various groups such as hunters, recreational users, guide outfitters, and anglers as one of his priorities.
“That’s why we’re here, we come here to recreate and everyone wants it for themselves,” he said. “It can’t be that way. We have to find that balance and find what’s most equitable for everybody.”
Other matters of concern include beefing up wildfire fire mitigation and interface programs, supporting the coal mines in the Elk Valley, growing local economies, and forest and wildlife management — particularly the declining ungulate population.
“We’ve got some wildlife issues and those are going to have to be addressed,” Shypitka said. “I’ve been to a few workshops and forums regarding wildlife and the declining population of our ungulates and elk and deer and moose and we’ve got to do something about it.”
Shypitka also gave a nod to outgoing MLA Bill Bennett, who has represented the riding for the last 16 years.
“I’ve had lots of conversations with him over the last year and there’s one thing he doesn’t lack and that’s dedication and heart,” Shypitka said. “He actually really, really cares.
“…I can tell you 150 per cent that Bill Bennett cares and it shows. He’s done some excellent work.”
Shypitka is well-known in the area for his accomplishments in the curling rink, having represented B.C. at the Tim Hortons Brier — Canada’s national curling championship — three times.
Shypitka also adds that he would not be running if it wasn’t for the support of his wife — Carrie — and his children — Allie, Adam and Dustin.