A Nanaimo father of two and self-described generational “Shack Islander” has decided to run as an independent candidate in the federal election.
Geoff Stoneman, who works as a plumber and gas fitter, has been confirmed by Elections Canada as an independent candidate for the Nanaimo-Ladysmith riding.
In an interview with the News Bulletin, Stoneman said he chose to run as an independent because he believes there are a lot of people in Nanaimo, who are middle-income blue-collar workers, who either don’t vote or don’t feel that current political parties represent them.
“I know people who are 40 who have never voted, you get the same answer. Either all the parties are the same, politicians don’t represent me, what’s the point? You get a really similar theme,” he said. “I figured this year there was an opportunity here. Why not run a blue-collar, really hands-on, straight-forward campaign to connect with people who aren’t voting?”
Stoneman said he has lived in Nanaimo for the past 14 years but that his family’s roots in the city trace back to the 1880s.
“Three generations of my family spent every summer at Shack Island,” he said.
When it comes to politics, Stoneman believes most Canadians are “middle ground.” He said because of that, there are advantages to being an independent candidate.
“I will be the only person … to say that there are good ideas on either side,” he said, later adding that independents aren’t whipped or required to follow party lines.
Stoneman said he has three key topics he wants to highlight during his campaign; balancing the environment and economy, the addiction and mental health crisis, and the cost of living.
Stoneman said the environment and the economy are both important and Canada should find a way to balance both. He said reducing greenhouse gases won’t have a big impact on a global scale since Canada is a relatively small emitter, but doing so can produce economic benefits and make Canada a global leader.
“If we can show the world that what we have done has changed things for us, we can then implement that and we can pass that on,” he said.
One solution, according to Stoneman, that balances economic interests with environmental interests, is hydrogen technology because it is a “viable” option. He said hydrogen can be used within the existing natural gas infrastructure and technological advances have created a way to “extract” hydrogen from old bitumen wells without releasing greenhouse gases.
“We have a fuel that when we burn, we release no carbon, we can harvest it with no carbon, we can use it tomorrow in our natural gas infrastructure and nobody is talking about it,” he said. “It saves people, like you and me and money, it saves hospitals money, it saves transit money, it makes a difference environmentally.”
On the issue of addiction and mental health, he said communities across Canada are struggling to deal with it and the additional issues that are related to it.
“Everyone is dealing with the same issues of homelessness and mental health issues facilities being overrun,” he said.
Stoneman said the idea of a national pharmacare program is a good one and that any program should include a provision mandating pharmaceutical companies to provide money toward mental health and addiction programs as well as affordable housing. He said big drug makers of painkillers should be held responsible for their role in the ongoing opioid crisis and believes having them pay for needed mental health and addiction services or face criminal charges, is ideal.
“If we have an oil spill or an environmental disaster, the company responsible is on the hook for paying for it,” Stoneman said. “So why doesn’t that work in this instance?”
When it comes to the cost of living, Stoneman said wages haven’t risen high enough over the last decade to keep up with inflation. He said regulation around auto loans are needed to better protect consumers. He also said more co-op housing is needed and would be open to the idea of co-op communities and neighbourhoods where the housing wasn’t just townhomes or condos, but single-family homes.
Regardless of whether he wins or not, Stoneman said the motivation behind his campaign is to get people talking and showing up to the polls.
“My biggest motivation in this is to increase voter turnout,” he said.
The federal election is Oct. 21. Advance voting dates are Oct. 11-14.
Stoneman will be competing against Bob Chamberlin of the NDP, Michelle Corfield of the Liberal Party, John Hirst of the Conservatives and Paul Manly of the Green Party, Jennifer Clarke of the People’s Party of Canada and Brian Marlatt of the Progressive Canadian Party. James Chumsa of the Communist Party has also said he’s running but has not yet been confirmed by Elections Canada.
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