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Candidate Duane Chaos wants to change the face of B.C. Conservatives

April 22, 2013 - 2:40 PM

VANCOUVER - A voter might be forgiven for wondering if Duane Nickull — the bleached blond rock bassist who calls himself an environmentalist in conversation and Duane Chaos on stage — wandered into the wrong nomination meeting when he was declared the B.C. Conservative's candidate for Vancouver-Point Grey.

But if there is anyone in politics today who could change the face of Canadian conservatism, it might be Nickull.

He spends his evening gigs with bandmates Jesus Krysler and Zippy Pinhead. He spends his days on the campaign trail trying to convince voters his party is not the federal Conservatives.

"We are not the Stephen Harper Conservative party. This is the British Columbia Conservative party," says Nickull.

Nickull tells voters in the affluent provincial riding currently held by Premier Christy Clark which includes the University of British Columbia that he's a Green Peace member and a "strong environmentalist."

He could tell them his family has a long history of progressive Canadian opinions, and that his great uncle Olaf Turnbull served alongside Tommy Douglas in the Saskatchewan Co-operative Commonwealth Federation in the 1960s.

He could talk about his stint as a competitive mountain bike racer in 1990s.

Or he could tell the voters that he wants to kick-start a renewable energy economy in B.C. and that he thinks "we have to get off all fossil fuels" and that "whether you agree with global warming or not, the logic is undeniable, this is a finite resource."

He could say all of those progressive sounding things and they'd be true.

But when it comes down to defining himself politically, Nickull says "That's easy: first and foremost I am a fiscal conservative and as such I could not identify with the agendas of the NDP and the Liberals."

"When I describe myself to people I say I'm a fiscal conservative and a social liberal," he says.

"Whether it be health care, education, infrastructure, environment, its all affected by British Columbia's ability to, first of all, start balancing its books," says Nickull.

"Second of all," he continues, "restore accountability to the government process."

"And third," the first-time candidate goes on, sounding at times as if he may be reading from the Conservative party platform, "to help the economy regain traction and make sure that people have jobs and we have the ability as a tax base to be effective in other areas of government."

But Nickull — who is a father of three and a ten-year resident of Point Grey — isn't relying solely on his rocker alter-ego and penchant for book-balancing in his battle against Clark and New Democrat star candidate David Eby.

He's also channelling his decades-long career as a successful tech entrepreneur.

In the late 1990s, he helped develop a ubiquitous piece of computer technology that he then sold to Adobe Systems.

"Any time you use a computer, you're using some of those architectural principles that I helped develop," Nickull says.

His work in the tech industry got him elected as vice chair of the United Nations Centre for Trade Facilitation and Electronic Business, a body of the UN responsible for improving government and commercial electronic business standards.

"That was a very challenging political environment," says Nickull.

"Unlike provincial politics where we may argue to the end of the day over a number of issues, there's still a realization that B.C. needs to exist united as a province after we decide the issue," he says. "But in the United Nations there are countries that don't really care if some other countries exist after the process."

Nickull says working in that environment taught him to talk to people as individuals and that "good ideas come from anywhere."

Technology is a prevalent theme in Nickull's campaign.

"We've found that we can engage a lot more people through the social media channels than we can effectively by going out and running a polluting campaign with lawn signs and buses," he says.

With nearly 3,000 followers, a political consulting group recently named Nickull the election's second most effective Twitter user.

"I've really embraced the technology sector," he says, "and that background has been instrumental in enabling me to see places where things could be more efficient across a broad spectrum of sectors."

On the environment, Nickull is "very keen on some of the green policies," but says they have to be balanced with an economic perspective.

"We don't have a magic wand that we can wave and create a utopian world," he says.

"I care a lot about the environment, but there are a couple of dots that need to be connected with respect to what can and cannot be done in British Columbia."

He thinks the Northern Gateway Pipeline is necessary and that B.C. shouldn't block another provinces' access to markets.

He's not sure about liquefied natural gas, though, saying, "it definitely seems to be cleaner than some of the alternatives and in that respect it may be an interesting transition gateway."

"I am a bit concerned about the way it might be developed. I want to make sure it's done in a way that is economically beneficial to British Columbia," he adds.

Ultimately, though, Nickull wonders why the province hasn't done more to attract alternative energy investment.

"I've been working with the U.S. Department of Energy lately on renewable energy projects as a technical monitor," he says, adding another prominent post to his resume.

"We need to start developing some of the abundance of geothermal and wind energy that we have in this province to augment our energy portfolio," he says, adding that such an investment would "develop thousands of new high paying jobs and help the environment at the same time."

Nickull has been blogging about his experience as a first-time candidate. He says it's been humbling so far.

"We were probably a bit naive in thinking life would be somewhat normal during the whole process," says Nickull.

"As I've gotten into the swing of the race, I've met some great people and I've learned that great ideas come from everywhere."

News from © The Canadian Press, 2013
The Canadian Press

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