PENTICTON - When Connie Sahlmark learned the B.C. Green Party needed a candidate in the Penticton riding, she decided the issues at stake were so important she needed to do something out of character — run for election.
The recent graduate from the Sustainable Construction Technologies Program at Okanagan College in Penticton had just received a job offer when she learned there would be no Green Party candidate on the ballot.
“I was just sick about it,” she says. Sahlmark called the Green Party and offered to let her name stand for the nomination. Within hours, she was inundated with emails.
“It turned out, there was lots of interest, but no one had the time to run,” she says. Her future employer agreed to put her hire on hold until the election campaign was over.
“I’m nervous about it. It’s been a whirlwind since I agreed to run,” she says.
Sahlmark is running against the B.C. Liberal Party incumbent Dan Ashton and B.C. NDP candidate Tarik Sayeed.
She describes her campaign as a grass roots effort. The party does not allow corporate donations, and Sahlmark has capped her campaign expenses at $10,000. You won’t see more than a handful of Green Party signs in the Penticton riding.
Sahlmark interspersed her engagements on Thursday, April 27, for this iNFOnews.ca interview while grabbing lunch at a local coffee shop.
She is passionate about her message.
“I’m running on my own name, my own integrity. I’m not a career politician, I’m doing this because it’s what I believe in,” says the mother of three.
“I feel really frustrated the government is not keeping its word. It’s something that’s been important to me for a long time. I feel we’ve been putting up with an adversarial, old-time approach that pits the environment against progress, and I think we need to look at things realistically,” she says. “We should be seeking win-win solutions that aren’t simply focussed on profit and the bottom line. We need to look at sustainability. We need to change our perspective."
An example put forward by Sahlmark’s campaign manager Bruce Gunn is Penticton's lack of solar energy projects, according to solar providers in the region.
Sahlmark sees education, affordable housing and health and senior’s care as the Penticton riding’s top issues.
“They’re all interconnected, and the solution to these issues links back to having a sustainable economy. It’s about the three P’s - people, planet and profits,” she says.
Sahlmark says the Green Party platform is based on peer-reviewed case studies that is based on proper research rather than being issued by corporate interests or political lobbyists.
“Government is meant to serve the people, not the other way around,” Sahlmark says.
The Green Party candidate has been a resident of Penticton for 13 years.
“Once I found there was a place this warm in Canada, I said, ‘I’m not leaving.’”
Sahlmark calls herself an “introverted extrovert” who enjoys mountain biking.
"I like the people and I like this community. We have to begin thinking long term to keep it sustainable,” she says.
The provincial election is on May 9.
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