Saturday, April 7, 2012

The Race for Banff-Cochrane

Banff-Cochrane has existed in one form or another as a constituency since 1940. Long a bastion for independent thinkers, the voters here have never been scared to buck the trend - they've elected independent candidates 3 times, and once elected a "coalition Progressive Conservative/Liberal" candidate (in 1959, as one of only 4 constituencies in Alberta not to elect a Social Credit candidate). Federally, the area sees a significant amount of support for the Green Party, while still electing Conservatives. The area has been represented by retiring Progressive Conservative Janis Tarchuk since 1997.

There are a lot of ranchers in the area, and forestry is a major employer as well. Cochrane, in addition to having the best ice cream on Earth (MacKay's, for the un-initiated), is something of a bedroom community for northwest Calgary, though the growth of the town and its commercial base has more and more residents working within Cochrane itself. Canmore, Banff, the Kananaskis Village and Bragg Creek are also communities within the riding, with their own unique challenges and concerns.

The Candidates:
Ron Casey (PC)
Tom Copithorne (WRP)
Pete Helfrich (LIB)
Jamie Kleinsteuber (NDP)

Ron Casey is the long-time Mayor of Canmore, and was most recently re-elected in 2010 with 53.1% of the vote. An electrician by trade, Casey is also a 4th-degree black belt in karate - making him officially the "Baddest Man on the Ballot" (Trudeau's next challenger, perhaps?). The popular Casey, who has lived in Canmore for nearly 40 years, defeated Cochrane Mayor Truper McBride (among others) in a hotly-contested PC nomination. The freshly-minted grandfather lists health care, seniors housing, and property rights among his priorities.

Tom Copithorne is one of the "Jumping Pound Copithornes", a family that has become synonymous with the area that they settled and continue to ranch to this day. If you've driven Highway 1 to Banff or Canmore over the past year, you'd know Copithorne land as "the parcel with the big, Danielle Smith-covered trailer parked on it". A relative, Clarence Copithorne, was elected as an independent in 1967 and later served as Lougheed's Minister of Highways, playing a key role in the creation of Kananaskis Country. Tom is a former rodeo cowboy, who recently became a proud granfather (noticing a pattern?) and has run his own ranch in the area since 1977.

Pete Helfrich is a Bragg Creek native and long-time paramedic. He cites his work with the Stoney First Nation as the catalyst for his political involvement. He lists environment, health care and education as his 3 top priorities. It was not clear, as of press time, if he had any young grandchildren (see above).

Jamie Kleinsteuber is a graduate of the University of Ottawa, with degrees in Canadian history, public policy and management. He lives in Cochrane, and wants to boost the tourism potential of the Bow River Valley. He lists his largest concern, though, as electricity prices. At 35, Jamie almost certainly doesn't have any grandchildren (though, you never know...)

All-Candidates' Forums will be held in:

Bragg Creek - Wednesday, April 11
7-9 pm, Bragg Creek Community Centre

Canmore - Tuesday, April 17
7-9:30 pm, Location TBD

Banff - Thursday, April 19
7-9 pm, Banff Mountain Park Lodge 

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