Local News Eye is profiling all the candidates running in the Cowichan Valley and Cowichan North-Nanaimo ridings for the provincial election.
When you run for election as an independent, there are lots of details that you have to take care of yourself. The other parties in B.C. have zippy, recognizable logos and even their own colours to distinguish their candidates.
Ian Morrison has created his own distinctive crest, now that he has declared his intention to run in the May 9 provincial election. The image on his website resembles something you might see on a rugby shirt, a shield shape (because elected officials protect as well as serve, he says) edged by the traditional colours of a medicine wheel – his wife Brenda is Ojibwe, adopted by a white family as part of the Sixties Scoop in Manitoba, and he is the lead for the CVRD on the treaty advisory committee. In the centre of the crest, there are bands of yellow for sun, blue for water and green for forests. You could say Morrison really is wearing his beliefs.
Morrison is the three-term director for area F (Cowichan Lake South and Skutz Falls) for the Cowichan Valley Regional District (that makes three directors running including Sonia Furstenau and Lori Iannidinardo). He admits running as an independent is a challenge in politically polarized BC. “It’s a steeper hill and a longer climb but I’m not shackled by party platforms,” says Morrison, who resigned in January as president of the Cowichan Valley NDP over its equity policy that permitted only female or minority candidates, something he called “discriminatory.”
In his new role, he vows to put people before parties. “All the other candidates are going to have to go out and sell their brand of politics. I’m turning that completely on its head and saying the Cowichan Valley can send me to Victoria with their platform.” He agrees with many of the social policies of the Greens and NDP and likes the fiscal policies of the Liberals. “I think it’s sad that if the opposition has a good idea, the government on principle will reject it,” he said, noting as an independent, he can deal with the issues rather than party lines. “This has the most potential if we have a minority government with one or two Greens and one or two independents.”
More independent candidates would open up the process, says Morrison. At an electoral reform meeting held last summer by MP Alistair MacGregor, Morrison recalls that at the end people got up and said “So we end up voting for someone who is on the list. Where’s the direct democracy? We get to elect our local representation but that’s if they go through the screening process.”
Born in Ontario, Morrison, 54, grew up in Winnipeg, where he remembers as a child handing out flyers for a local politicians. He came to the Island as a young adult to visit friends attending UVic. “I knew so many people who saw Vancouver Island as a destination,” he said. “It didn’t make sense to me that you work your whole life in one community and then retire somewhere else.” He became a financial advisor and moved to Mill Bay and later Honeymoon Bay, where he’s been since 1995. Their daughter Rhianon, 18, is a high-calibre volleyball player.
Jobs and health care for the Valley are his two priorities. “Our premier keeps telling us we have the strongest economy in country. Most people I talk to don’t see that. They’re living paycheque to paycheque. People are living precariously. There is no good reason why we couldn’t have a secondary manufacturing boom in the Cowichan Valley,” he said. “We have the workforce and the raw materials here.” He says tourism growth is a big opportunity. “Cowichan Lake is underutilized. If we can get the minimum wage bumped to $15 an hour we can give people a reason to come home to Cowichan and raise families.”
We desperately need a new hospital as well, he said. “We need to fast-track a new hospital,” he said adding the current facility is chronically overcapacity. A friend of Morrison’s described the emergency room as “Mardi Gras.” He added that the homeless and drug and mental health issues drag down the whole community.
Then he’s off to prepare for another CVRD committee meeting. His parting words, “Not only is it an honour to be elected, it’s a responsibility as well.”