There will be a contest for the NDP nomination in the Fraser-Nicola riding, as Chief Aaron Sam of the Lower Nicola Band announced on Monday that he is throwing his hat into the ring.
The announcement ended days of speculation as to whether the 43-year-old Sam, currently serving his first term as chief, would run. Former four-time MLA and cabinet minister Harry Lali announced in May that he would be seeking the NDP nomination in the riding. A date for the nomination has not been set.
Sam says that he was approached by the NDP to run in Fraser-Nicola. “I wanted to engage and consult with the 1,200 members of the Lower Nicola Band, and that’s what I’ve been doing over the last few weeks. It was a tough decision to make, but also very exciting.”
Sam was born and raised in the Merritt area and comes from a ranching family, with many family members throughout the riding. “I feel I have a very thorough knowledge of rural communities.”
He obtained a Bachelor of Arts degree in Environmental Studies from California State University in 1999, and in 2001 moved to Vancouver to attend law school at UBC, where he received his law degree in 2004. He has been a practicing lawyer for more than 10 years, and believes that this background equips him to work effectively on pressing concerns that he feels have been ignored by the provincial government.
Along with local First Nations groups and the Friends of the Nicola Valley, Sam worked to keep biosolids out of the Nicola Valley. “It’s an issue that affects many of us in the riding.” He also notes that local economies and employment are important.
“The Tolko lumber mill in Merritt is closing soon. Employment is something that is on many people’s minds.”
Sam identified health care and education as two other key issues. “They’ll be very important in coming years.
“It’s really important to me to go meet people in other parts of the riding, which is very spread out. I’d like to listen to community members and find out what their needs are.”
Lali says he is glad that the wait to see whether he would be challenged for the nomination has ended. “It’s about time he made up his mind,” he says of his challenger. “Now I know who I’m up against. There’s no more mystery man.”
He says that this is the first time he has faced a contested nomination since 1990, and is looking forward to the challenge.
“I’ve been signing up members. Now it’s up to the membership to decide if they want an experienced hand who knows his way around parliament and bureaucracy and knows how to get things done; someone who’s a proven fighter for the whole constituency.
“Do they want a proven hand, or a novice? I have a very lengthy record of achievement for all communities in Fraser-Nicola. If the NDP wants to win this seat again, I’m the best choice to do so.”
Lali says that the riding needs a change. “The last two times we’ve had Liberals in place here, all they’ve done is toe the party line and represent Victoria in our constituency, rather than represent our constituents in Victoria.
“I’ve been a strong voice for Fraser-Nicola, and I intend to win the nomination and take on [Liberal MLA] Jackie Tegart, so we can have strong representation for our communities. I’m looking to go back to work for the people of Fraser-Nicola.”
Tegart says she has worked with Sam on a number of projects, and that they worked well together. “The sooner the NDP get a candidate in place, the better.
“The Liberals will run on their record. Whoever the candidates are, people will see there’s a difference between the parties, and what the parties run on. We have our strategies and team in place, and are ready to hit the ground.”
Sam says that “I’m passionate about helping people, listening to them, and finding collaborative solutions to address the issues we have in common.
“I’m really excited about this journey, and where it’s going to take me over the next weeks and months.”