Cariboo rancher Duncan Barnett has put his name forward as a possible NDP candidate for the riding of Cariboo North to run in the next provincial election.
“The time is right,” Barnett said during an interview at a Williams Lake coffee shop Tuesday morning. His three daughters, ages 22, 20 and 16, are growing up, and the youngest one has given him permission to put his name forward, he said.
“Politics is a challenge that has always appealed to me. I enjoy politics, but have not always been an NDP member or had strong leanings that way. People might be surprised to hear I am putting my name forward to run for the party.”
Over the last year Barnett has talked to the NDP leadership in the region and in the province and said he thinks the NPD has what he described as a “big tent.”
“They are open to debate and discussion about issues. That appeals to me because I think we need some of that and I think leader Adrian Dix listens to his MLAs.”
Not wanting to pinpoint any particular issues of interest to him, Barnett said he’s committed to the long-term health of the province.
“My issues are not important, what’s important is representing people in this region and dealing with all the issues that are going to come forward. I’m reluctant to get tagged with a couple of issues.”
He said he cares about what’s happening in rural B.C., about what’s happening with natural resource industries, has concerns about what’s happening for youth, seniors and Aboriginal people, but he’s reluctant to get pegged as a natural resources candidate because these days he’s also concerned with issues that have to do with people.
“I’m not going into politics because of one or two issues,” he added.
Barnett was a director with the Cariboo Regional District for a decade, an experience he said “taught him a lot.”
He is a director with the B.C. Cattlemen’s Association, past-chair of the Invasive Species Council, and is presently chair of the Cariboo Cattlemen’s Association.
“This year we had a series of field schools in the cattlemen’s association, focusing on forage. That’s our strength in this region, our forage production. I’m proud of the proactive work our regional association has done,” Barnett said, adding through those experiences he has worked with many communities, including First Nations.
When asked where he stands on the New Prosperity Gold-Copper Project, he said the riding he is pursuing is not in the Chilcotin.
The NDP party has come out against the New Prosperity project, Barnett confirmed, but added in the riding of Cariboo North mining is active.
“I am certainly not opposed to mining and am very aware and appreciative that mining makes a big contribution to the economy of Cariboo North.”
Mining, like all natural resource economies, are important to people living in the riding, Barnett said.
Provincial NDP party vice president and former NDP MLA David Zirnhelt said he welcomed Barnett to the NDP team.
“I work on policy for the NDP and that’s one of the things that excites me about Barnett joining the NDP. We need people on our team with his background. He’s had his hands dirty being in business on the land for a long time,” Zirnhelt explained, adding Barnett’s willingness to join is proof that the NDP is open to improvement in business.
“We are a mixed economy party and believe the private sector has a huge role to play. Adrian Dix has been talking to business of all sizes across the province and has had some success in opening up dialogue.”
During the past year, as he contemplated running for the NDP, Barnett said it was important for him to understand where Dix and the NDP are “coming from today” with respect to business.
“I think it’s fair to say that any party that assumes governance of this province has to deal with the economy, has do deal with jobs. You can’t do the social stuff in isolation and Adrian Dix knows that. I think I have a clear role there because that is my background, small business, rural B.C. and natural resources.”
Zirnhelt said the NDP looked at a dozen potential candidates and Barnett was the only one that put his name forward.
The official nomination convention will take place Jan. 20.