KELOWNA – Rainer Wilkins has never used Facebook before this campaign.
“I never saw the need before,” he says from his back porch in Kettle Valley. “But it’s a way to reach a lot of people. It sparks conversation. And people can research what you say.”
Wilkins is a first-time politician running as the B.C. Green Party candidate in the Kelowna-Mission riding. He says the decision to take time from his own business came after a conversation he had with his young daughter.
“There were kids in her class that were having a lunch brought to them. My daughter wanted to know why she doesn’t get those nice lunches and I explained that some of the students didn’t have enough food to eat.”
After doing some research on the subject to help his daughter understand, he says he found some shocking statistics.
“50 per cent of single parent families live in poverty in our province,” he says. “Food bank usage is at an all-time high. The more I read about it the more disappointed I was that in a province with so much wealth, there were so many people disenfranchised. A society should be judged on how it treats its most vulnerable members and our government isn’t doing a very good job of treating those people very well.”
Wilkins, 51, was born in Germany but moved to B.C. 25 years ago. Growing up, his parents made their own wine, and he developed an interest early.
In 1996 he moved to Vancouver Island and started selling wine for a small agency. In 2001 he became a sommelier and since moving to Kelowna started his own business with his wife selling wine for several wineries in the Okanagan.
“Gravitating to Kelowna was just a natural progression,” he says. “We love it here but I’d love to see the cost of living here … decrease. I think affordability is one of the biggest issues facing middle income or middle class families. I’ve heard so many stories of kids going to university somewhere else because they can’t afford to live here.”
Wilkins says the decision to run for MLA was not an easy one, but, he says, the problems he sees won’t fix themselves.
“I don’t feel I’ve been personally affected by the policies of this government,” he says, “My life was really easy. Not everyone had the life I had. You have to put yourself in their position and see what it would do to you.”
He says if elected he wants to make sure issues like the environment, public transit, local economies, education, housing, social services and mental health are made more of a priority. He says a Ministry of Mental Health is essential and would solve a lot of problems he sees as interconnected.
“If we could shift that away to a mental health division then those people can become productive members of society. You free up the police, you free up the ambulances and you free up the hospitals. I don’t think using drugs is a crime, I think selling it is. If we can make sure families have a living wage, a place to live and a good education, some of those problems are alleviated.”
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