High-profile conservation officer vies to run for NDP against Greens’ Weaver

Bryce Casavant, the B.C. conservation officer who was suspended after he refused to shoot two orphaned black bear cubs, is vying be the B.C. NDP’s candidate in Oak Bay-Gordon Head.

If successful, Casavant will run against B.C. Green Party Leader Andrew Weaver. The NDP has said it plans to choose its candidate in February. No one else has put their name forward.

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Weaver has been the MLA for the riding since 2013, when he won 40 per cent of the vote. Lawyer Alex Dutton is running for the B.C. Liberals. The party took 29 per cent of the vote in the last election.

Casavant had been vying for the nomination in Courtenay-Comox. On Saturday, he announced he was dropping out, a move he characterized as a “strategic decision.”

On social media on Tuesday, Weaver said: “We’ll see how [Oak Bay-Gordon Head] residents react [to] parachute candidate from Port McNeill who is only running to be ‘strategic.’ ”

On Wednesday, Weaver congratulated Casavant and said: “This riding cares deeply about local representation, as was demonstrated by the exceptionally high voter turnout in 2013. I look forward to a lively campaign and wish him well.”

Casavant said residents of Oak Bay-Gordon Head asked him to run in the riding, where he intends to move with his family.

“The plan is to make this my home,” he said. “I’m an Island boy, born and raised.”

Casavant made international headlines in 2015 after he refused to kill two orphaned bear cubs whose mother had been killed after twice raiding a freezer at a Port Hardy home. Casavant argued the cubs could be rehabilitated and released back into the wild.

He was suspended as a result of his actions. An online petition calling for his reinstatement was supported by more than 300,000 people.

Casavant and the government came to an agreement that saw him take a job as a natural-resource officer with the Ministry of Forests, Lands and Natural Resource Operations, while at the same time pursuing a PhD at Royal Roads University.

The cubs were taken to the North Island Wildlife Recovery Centre and released into the wild last summer.

Casavant characterized his refusal to kill the bear cubs despite orders from his superiors as an example of his willingness to stand up to the B.C. Liberal government.

“I have a history of standing up to this government. I have a history of representing the people of this province as a public servant on a wide variety of issues, including community policing issues and social issues,” he said.

Casavant brushed off questions about being a one-issue candidate and said he’s confident he can win the riding.

kderosa@timescolonist.com

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