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Houston mayor to run for B.C. United Party

Shane Brienen has been Houston mayor since 2014
Houston mayor Shane Brienen at a spring job fair. He’s now been named to run for the B.C. United party for the Nechako Lakes riding in the next provincial election. (File photo)

BC United leader Kevin Falcon has named Houston mayor Shane Brienen as his party’s candidate in the Nechako Lakes riding for the next provincial election.

Elected as mayor of Houston in 2014 after three terms as a council member, Brienen was returned by acclamation in 2018 and again in 2022.

Brienen was one of several hundred Canfor sawmill workers to lose their jobs when the company closed the mill in that community this spring, saying the plant was too old and too inefficient to produce high-quality wood products.

It has since announced it will spend a projected $200 million on a new facility it says will turn out higher-value wood products able to withstand economic ups and downs.

As a councillor, and then as mayor, Brienen weathered a first sawmill closure when West Fraser shut down its sawmill there in 2014, also putting hundreds of people out of work.

Brienen will face long-standing MLA John Rustad who was ejected from the B.C. Liberal caucus in 2022, before its name change to B.C. United, after questioning whether carbon dioxide was contributing to climate change. He became an independent before joining the BC Conservative Party. Rustad became its leader earlier this year.

Rustad was first elected as a member of the B.C. Liberals in 2005 and has never dipped below collecting 50 per cent of the votes through five elections.

As now scheduled, the next provincial election will be in October 2024.

Falcon has also named another B.C. United candidate in recent days — TC Energy public affairs official Kiel Giddins will run for that party in the Prince George - Mackenzie riding.

TC Energy is the company building the Coastal GasLink pipeline through which natural gas will be pumped from northeastern B.C. to the LNG Canada liquefied natural gas plant now nearing completion in Kitimat.