It’s now official. Joan Atkinson is the NDP candidate in the Prince George-Mackenzie riding. Her candidacy was leaked earlier this week and, with all the proper paperwork now filed, the mayor of Mackenzie launched her campaign before about 25 supporters at the Kiwanis bandshell in Lheidli T’enneh Memorial Park Friday.
“I have never been a strong partisan supporter,” she said. “Instead, I have also voted for the best leader. Strong and effective government needs a strong leader and (NDP leader) John Horgan has clearly demonstrated he is the best person to move our province forward in these unprecedented times.”
She called the NDP leadership during the COVID-19 pandemic a “model for the world.” She said she supports Horgan’s decision call the election with year left in the current mandate.
“There are no guarantees that COVID-19 will be gone in a year,” she said. “I think it’s important as we move through this unprecedented, difficult time that we have a strong government to move us forward. With a minority government … it really hamstrings the process of moving things forward.”
She was elected to the Mackenzie city council in 2007. In 2014 she became deputy mayor and 2018 was elected as mayor. She is director on the Regional District Fraser-Fort George board of directors and is acting chair of the regional hospital district.
She spent more than 30 years working in government, 18 of the those for the government of B.C. before retiring in 2018.
“I have the boots in the trenches experience when it comes to delivering when it comes to delivering government services and programs,” she said. “… The North and rural communities need a stronger voice in Victoria and I’ll be the voice to do that.”
For the past eight months she has worked as co-chair of the Mackenzie Timber Supply Coalition as the woes of the forest industry have been front-and-centre in Mackenzie since last summer.
“We have identified several issues that have led to (collapse) and what needs to be changed to restore (the forest) industry, that is vital to our region while ensuring long-term sustainability of our forests, our industries and our communities.”
She said tackling homelessness and mental health and addition issues is also concern for her and referenced the high per capita number of overdose deaths in Prince George.
“This will be a priority concern for me if I am elected,” she said.
She knows she’s in a tough test, given that she will be going up against incumbent Mike Morris who secured more than 50 per cent of the vote in 2017.
“I’m in it to win it,” she said. “I recognize the challenge. Prince George-Mackenzie has been a Liberal stronghold for more than a decade-plus. People are ready for a change. My community is ready for a change.”
British Columbians go to the polls October 24.