World champion Paralympic athlete Michelle Stilwell is the next B.C. Liberal candidate for Parksville-Qualicum.
The race to replace MLA Ron Cantelon took shape on Thursday with Stilwell’s acclamation as the next B.C. Liberal candidate in the constituency.
She will run against the B.C. NDP’s Barry Avis, a three-term councilor in Qualicum Beach.
Avis has had an 18-month head start but Stilwell said she is ready for the race.
“I’m used to taking challenges in my life. This election is just another challenge for me to work for what’s right,” she said. “There’s politics in sport and there’s no doubt in my mind I’ve had enough experience through life in general that will make me an excellent candidate.”
Stilwell put her support behind the B.C. Liberals “families first” agenda. She said that she could “talk for hours” about the things that concern her as a citizen, but that the starting point is clear: strong economy, jobs and families.
As for what she’ll need to do in order to secure a victory, Stilwell said one task would be to show the community that she’s more than an athlete.
“I have to make them believe in the direction of the B.C. Liberals as much as I believe,” said Stilwell.
Residents will have a chance to meet Stilwell and ask her questions at an acclamation meeting in Parksville on Jan. 8.
Avis has been going door-to-door to drum up support for his candidacy. The NDP camp has hosted 13 events in the community.
Avis identified health care as his number one issue, citing the relative age of his constituency. That focus will zero in on issues like end of life care, empty care beds and ways to keep seniors in their homes longer.
With regards to a balance between social programs and the government’s finances, Avis said what’s needed is a “full cost approach.”
“I would say there’s some fat that needs to be trimmed everywhere,” said Avis. “The taxation, the costs, fees are hurting people.”
One policy he pointed to was a tax increase on businesses earning more than $500,000. He said more emphasis on small business is necessary in B.C.
He criticized the B.C. Liberals’ jobs plan and called for more trades-based training in the province.
Overall, he described himself as a business-minded candidate whose goal is to ensure government is “running the most efficient operation possible.”
“The more people involved in part of what you’re doing . . . the better it is for everybody,” said Avis.
The B.C. Liberals’ acclamation meeting takes place on Jan. 8 at 6 p.m. at the Parksville Community Centre.
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