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Cowichan Liberals give acclamation nod to candidate Steve Housser

Steve Housser -
Steve Housser
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Steve Housser knows he has a big uphill battle to win the traditionally strong NDP riding of Cowichan Valley.

But the PR man acclaimed a B.C. Liberal candidate Thursday has high hopes of beating incumbent MLA Bill Routley, Green hopeful Kerry Davis, and any others who may surface for the May 14 vote.

"There's no question it'll be a tough battle," said political freshman Housser, 63. "There was a separation of 3,000 votes in the last election, so the tactic is to go out and find 3,001 votes."

That optimism saw former Shawnigan Lake Director Ken Cossey nominate Housser as the local Liberal choice during a meeting at the Travelodge Silver Bridge Inn in Duncan, where Housser felt a "buzz in the room."

"There was a sense of momentum. We've got a good shot at it," said the ex-reporter who covered Parliament and B.C.'s legislature, and was former bureau chief of CBC-TV News, Victoria.

The political animal outlined planks he's building with campaign manager Pat Hrushowy. "The whole idea," said Housser, "is to hit the ground running as of Jan. 1."

His election turf covers a new Cowichan District Hospital.

"It's time to replace it. That's at the top of my list."

So is concrete medians all along the deadly Malahat.

"Right off the bat we can do concrete medians, top to bottom."

A new Cowichan high school is also on Housser's hit list.

"CSS has been in line for replacement for some time, so I think that has to get moving."

But moving contaminated soil to Cowichan from elsewhere — under provincial permits, and against Cowichan regional directors' wishes — didn't make Housser happy.

"Putting it on top of an aquifer of a stream leading to Shawnigan Lake?" the laker said of South Island Aggregate's proposed quarry dump. "I don't even know why it's under consideration. It makes no sense and I'll fight that little bit of lunacy, tooth and nail."

South Cowichan Rotary Club's past-president also pitched more trades training at VIU.

"If expanded, we could keep more young people on the island."

And the island's economic engine could be agri-tourism.

"We need continued emphasis on tourism. We have just so much to offer in Cowichan, whether it's our wineries, cheeses, or local foods, the valley's just an agricultural treasure, and the more that's promoted, the better."

Moving goods and people means getting island trains back on track.

"I want (trains) better utilized with some of Graham Bruce's ideas for ridership. I gather there's quite a controversy about exactly how much it'll cost. It can't just be sources of funding from the province," he said, citing federal cash pools.

But banning raw-log exports, and nixing the proposed Enbridge oil pipeline, have left Housser fence sitting.

"I'm conflicted because I understand we need access to logs domestically for our lumber mills, but there has to be some raw-log exports to get money for timber companies."

And with Enbridge, "it's not just the pipeline, but what it carries."

"If it's to ship tarsands bitumen on the ocean, I'm not very thrilled. If it's to ship bitumen to Kitimat for refining, like David Black's plan, I'm OK with that. If the five conditions (profit sharing to spill response) Premier Clark put out can't be met, forget it."

Farmers burning wood slash left Housser undecided too.

"I'm sure (smoke pollution) awful and sympathize with patients, but if farms are burning their own wood and clearing fields there has to be something done with it.

"Rather than forcing farmers to chip or bury it, they could have happy accommodation by meeting and discussing it. I'd rather that than more legislation."

Housser also saw merits of calling off the cops concerning marijuana busts for personal use.

"We have a perfect opportunity to watch Washington State, and how that goes," he said of where's personal puffing's now legal, "and build up a body of experience before we dash into this.

"You can't turn a blind eye to grow-ops largely funnelled to organized crime. Police already don't pay a great deal of attention to someone with just a joint."

And Housser's attention doesn't really follow polls.

"Judging entirely by current polls, it would be difficult for the Liberals to win, but polls change and seem to be moving in a positive direction.

"Our party is able to attract some good strong candidates. It'll be tough, but it's absolutely doable."

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