A Village of Nakusp councillor, Joseph Hughes, is adding his name to the candidates list for those seeking the MLA seat for the Kootenay-West riding.
The married, 29-year-old father of three (ages seven, five and three) is in his fourth year as a councillor with the Village of Nakusp. Hughes said he is running as an independent in the May 14 general election to help bring more power to the voices of constituents directly to the Legislature.
“I’ve got a strong team behind me and a lot of people who are really excited to see my message put out there,” Hughes said in a telephone interview Thursday, April 11.
Hughes said he has had his eye on a higher level of involvement for some time because he feels there is a disconnect between what democracy should be and what it is.
“We have the ability with technology, and with the way our society can deliver information, to involve people in the conversation and I don’t feel like politicians are taking this tool and using it because they are a little bit afraid of being under the public eye,” he said.
“Since I’ve been on council, I’ve been on a number of committees that have given me a lot of experience.”
Hughes said he has been involved with the Union of British Columbia Municipalities (UBCM) and the Association of Kootenay and Boundary Local Governments and is educated on the concerns of the area as a whole and not just Nakusp.
He said there are common issues throughout the valley, such as the retention of people and the support services they require, such as health care.
“As health starts failing, seniors have to go farther and farther from home and that’s a real challenge,” he said. “They become disconnected from the places and people they need most in those times.”
Hughes believes the main solution with health care is the decentralization of as many services as possible.
“Interior Health does a very good job with a challenging situation of trying to provide health care in small communities,” he said. “But I think there is a lot more that can be done that would enable citizens to stay home as long as possible. That means more at-home care and facilities that can be more localized. It doesn’t have to be great big facilities but it can be smaller satellite care facilities.”
Hughes said he would like to see more traveling specialists as opposed to people always having to travel out of town.
Hughes added B.C. has a wealth of natural resources and must rethink the way in which we use them while addressing sustainability.
He sees the ongoing review of the Columbia Treaty as a “monumental decision”.
“We are at the whim of the American need for water and as I look to the future, I fear what current governments will do with a new treaty,” he said. “Our valley has suffered unparalleled consequences for this treaty and we need an advocate that will not let these realities be silenced by governments. We need representation that is free from the muzzling of party politics and lobbyist dictated priorities.”
Approached by the NDP in the past, Hughes said a lot of his philosophies parallel that party but the reason he has never run with party backing is because he doesn’t believe that it’s the best form of representative government for our area.
“I’m not a politician, I’m a representative and I have no appetite for politics,” he said. “When I’m at UBCM or talking to ministers, there’s no intimidation on either side of the table; it’s a matter of working together and understanding solutions on a common ground. There are no issues with cooperation because I don’t have this history of bad blood or fighting between parties.”
Hughes believes that sitting as an independent means he would have more power to bring constituents voices directly to Victoria.
“We can take that full consensus to Victoria,” he said. “We don’t have to have it watered down by a political party and their policies and political games. I think it’s imperative that people understand an independent is tied directly to the people and to the legislative assembly.”
Hughes said each election is a new opportunity for people to get the best bang for their vote.
“There is $160,000 of taxpayer money* paid toward the MLA position and people need to know their input is being received in Victoria,” he said. “They need to spend a little time to meet me, to challenge me and they will find that I stand for… reason, is perhaps the best way to put it.”
Hughes said he wouldn’t be able to compete with the bank accounts of other candidates but hopes people keep in mind “quality over quantity.”
“I won’t be able to invest as much money on my campaign but what’s more important is the message,” he said. “By independent, I am by no means alone. I’ve had so many people say they will dedicate themselves to rallying voters for me.”
Hughes said he is a red seal carpenter and also holds a diploma in Marketing Management (Mount Royal, Calgary, 2001). He owns a woodworking business, is a hobby farmer with a small acreage and is also involved with another larger farm.
Hughes may be campaigning in the Castlegar area before the Spring Fling but does plan to take that particular opportunity to hear from residents in the community.
* 2012 compensation for MLA Katrine Conroy was a base salary of $102,138 plus a $15,608 capital city living allowance and $39,320 in travel expenses.