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Four candidates vying for Esquimalt-Juan de Fuca seat

Langford Coun. Lillian Szpak is seeking the nomination for the federal Liberals in Esquimalt-Juan de Fuca, the seat MP Keith Martin has held for six terms.

Szpak, a three-term councillor and 17-year resident of Langford, said she was approached by the Esquimalt-JDF Liberal riding association shortly after Martin announced he would not seek another term.

“It is a great honour to be asked,” Szpak said. “This has been in the back of my mind for a while.” 

Where Martin decried the environment in Ottawa as toxic and hyperpartisan, Szpak, 58,  said she’s ready to leap into the fray of federal politics. 

“It is divide and conquer in Ottawa. With the experience I have at the local and regional level, I understand how to get things done,” Szpak said. “There are key local issues that need to be dealt with at a local level, but at the federal level require a voice.

“The federal government is not aware of the needs of the people unless MPs make them aware,” she said. “That is the key to the job.”   

Szpak said key federal issues facing the Esquimalt-JDF riding centre around adequate care for military veterans, caring for senior citizens, improving the economy and supporting better transportation options in the region.

The daughter of a Cape Breton coal miner, her father joined the air force and she lived in bases across Canada and Europe. Her husband Robert is an army physiotherapist and has served in Afghanistan. 

Szpak said if she wins the nomination, she’ll keep working as a Langford councillor until a federal election is called. The Liberal Esquimalt-Juan de Fuca nomination meeting will be held on Feb. 21. 

A former fire chief and assistant deputy minister is also aiming to win the Liberal nomination for Esquimalt-Juan de Fuca.

David Hodgins, 61, a resident of Esquimalt, said he wants to be part of the team that does away with the “command and control” style of government led by Prime Minister Stephen Harper. 

Hodgins’ concerns echo outgoing Esquimalt-JDF MP Keith Martin, who decided not to run for a seventh term due to endless partisan bickering in Ottawa.

“I’m quite concerned with the way this government operates,” Hodgins said. “It’s not what the people want, it’s not what the people expect and it’s time to get back to a government that serves the people.

“We’ve got to get back to democracy in this country. Right now we don’t have co-operative decision making on significant issues.” 

Hodgins served as a fire chief in communities in Ontario and Alberta before moving to Esquimalt in 2004. He worked as a B.C. fire commissioner and assistant deputy minister in the Ministry of Public Safety and the Solicitor General. In 2007, he was one of the main architects behind Alberta’s emergency management agency.

Locally, Hodgins said he is in favour of building an interchange at McKenzie Avenue and the Trans-Canada Highway as one facet of building transportation infrastructure. 

Federally, the health care system needs more focus on preventative solutions while using existing resources, he said.

Highlands-based medical doctor Ian Mackenzie is also seeking the Liberal nomination for Esquimalt-JDF.

A graduate of Lester Pearson College in Metchosin, Mackenzie is currently volunteering in a  relief camp in Haiti and couldn’t be contacted for an interview.

He is also a national-level athlete with Canoe-Kayak BC and is team doctor of Canada’s national rowing team.

One more candidate acclaimed

Esquimalt Councillor Randall Garrison was acclaimed Sunday, Jan. 23 as the New Democrat candidate in the riding of Esquimalt-Juan de Fuca for the upcoming federal election.

In explaining why he wanted to run again Garrison said, “I think we need to send an MP to Ottawa from Esquimalt-Juan de Fuca who will get down to work on the affordability crisis which youth, families, and seniors face everyday in this riding.”

Garrison also promised to work hard on important local issues.

“You can count on me as a member of Jack Layton’s team to continue to put people ahead of political games and to deliver practical results for residents of Esquimalt Juan de Fuca on things like fairness for veterans and federal support for commuter rail.”

Garrison advocated a number of measures to address the local and national affordability crisis. Items included; expanding the Canada Pension Plan with a lift in contributions, affordable universal child care, a national housing strategy and support for affordable housing, and lower tuition for students.

He argued these measures are affordable if we axe the Conservatives latest corporate income tax cuts.

As the New Democrat candidate in 2004 and 2006 Garrison finished second, losing narrowly to Liberal Keith Martin.

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