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Cowichan Conservative Damir Wallener touts acting locally, thinking provincially

Damir Wallener speaks at a recent public meeting about the controversial Shawnigan Lake soil dump proposal. - Peter W. Rusland/file
Damir Wallener speaks at a recent public meeting about the controversial Shawnigan Lake soil dump proposal.
— image credit: Peter W. Rusland/file

Damir Wallener, Cowichan’s B.C. Conservative candidate, promised to pull a dirty-soil permit proposed for the south-end.

But the high-tech worker, heritage-stock farmer, and father of two has more than dirt on his political plate.

He wants economic growth beyond resource extraction.

“It’s important we get back to an environment where people can create jobs so people can stay here, but we don’t want to create jobs in a way that destroys our (natural) beauty, said Wallener, 47. “

So the chief technologist with Secodix Corporation sees the high-tech sector as a key to B.C.’s future.

“We have an abundance of natural resources to make our lives better, but we can’t rely on that,” he said, citing Victoria’s Techtoria industry council.

But Cowichan’s VIU campus lacks core programs to prod high-tech jobs “so we can look at expanding those at VIU.”

“We can also be more proactive in getting more filming happening on the island, and some (tax-break) cost advantages.

“It comes down to the appropriate size of tax credit. We haven’t done a good job understanding the (film industry’s) underlying accounting.”

He gave B.C.’s Liberals low marks.

“I’d put them at two out of 10. It’s the way they’ve treated voters on the HST, and the Enbridge pipeline.

“They haven’t engaged voters, and that makes voters angry.”

Some folks are also miffed at the federal Tories.

“There’s some overlap in programs and principles, but we are a distinctly separate party,” Wallener stressed of his party led by John Cummins.

“It’s not our job to just tow the party line, but to represent constituents.”

Wallener respects Cowichan’s NDP MLA, Bill Routley, but “my concern is we don’t get solid representation in Victoria — some of that is because Bill’s from the opposition party, without a big seat in the party.”

So the Sahtlam resident wants voters to feel part of the political process, and have their voices heard.

That’s not what happened, he explained, regarding B.C. Rail’s sale, and BC Hydro’s smart-meter mess.

Wallener urged local control of soil imports, and Cowichan River’s fish-water flows.

“The best people to know what’s happening are people in the area.”

He touted careful consideration of pulling farmland for housing and other uses.

“What sustainable land we have, we should be good stewards of,” he said, favouring local, sustainable agriculture.

Likewise with Cowichan’s struggling arts sector.

“My family enjoys music festivals. Art is a way of getting people into a common cultural umbrella that has value.”

Added value from raw logs was also on his mind.

“Raw-log exports run against every fibre of my being. If we cut trees we should do something useful with them,” he said, citing furniture and cabinets.

Banning large school-class sizes was also thorny.

“Thirty-five per class is too big, but 10 probably isn’t realistic. It’s a range, depending on local circumstances.”

Should school board regain taxation powers?

“My concern is insufficient representation on how its raised and spent due to low voter engagement in local elections.

“We need a mechanism whereby the CVRD makes up the shortfall, but how do we do that without creating another runaway train on the expense side?”

That train also hauls Cowichan’s demand for staffed hospital beds.

“We need to fix how we deliver initial care.”

He suggested more clinics, and luring more doctors and RNs here, maybe with community scholarships, free university loans, and careful fast tracking of upgrades for folks from abroad.

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