Incumbent BC Liberal MLA John Rustad has announced his candidacy and is running again for the Nechako Lakes riding in the upcoming provincial election.
Rustad, who was first elected in 2005, won again in 2009 against NDP candidate Byron Goerz with 56 per cent of the votes, in 2013 against NDP challenger Sussanne Skidmore-Hewlett by 53 per cent votes and in 2017 against NDP candidate Anne Marie Sam by 52 per cent. This will be his fifth provincial election but surprisingly enough, politics was never on his radar.
Born and raised in Prince George, Rustad worked in the forest industry for more than 20 years.
“I spent most of my work career in forestry through various stages, everything from logging to planting trees, to working in a mill, to running my own consulting company with an office in Houston and Prince George providing Geographic Information Systems Analysis work for the forest sector where I did everything from timber supply analysis to forest development plans,” said Rustad.
In 2000, unhappy with the direction the province was going in under the then-NDP government, Rustad and his wife sat down to discuss their future and at one point even considered moving to Calgary to work in the resource sector.
“But ultimately my whole family is in the North and her parents are in the North, and we decided that we didn’t want to have to leave the province to be successful so we decided to stay,” said Rustad. “We were left with two choices—one, either we live with it or two, to get involved. And I just don’t have the personality to sit back when there is something wrong, so I got involved and that’s when I actually joined politics.”
Rustad’s first step was to get selected as a school trustee in Prince George after which, in 2005, he was elected provincially for the first time. In 2013, he was appointed as the Minister of Aboriginal Relations and Reconciliation. For Rustad, there was no looking back once he entered politics. But what has kept him going?
“There’s a couple of things—I am finding the time in opposition very challenging because it is tough to get things done and I am the type of person that likes to get something done and move on to the next challenge. But I suppose that’s what being in opposition is about; you just have to keep fighting for the things that are more important for the riding and the things that you believe in and that’s what keeps me going, keeps me wanting to run again,” said Rustad.
Rustad’s hope for his riding is to see a substantial growth in the coming years with more people coming in, the economy growing and the children and families in the riding wanting to stay back here to continue to enjoy the beauty of the area.
“There is a lot of work that I have been working on and I will continue to work on. My hope one way or the other from the elections should I have the honour to continue to represent the people of the riding, is that I can continue to push the issues and work on the issues that are important for the riding regardless of what the political outcome is,” said Rustad.
More about the man behind the politics, in the next issue.