Rebecca Darnell feels that her close connections to the community will help her at the polls on Monday. She is the highest-profile local candidate the Liberals have put forward since the 2004 election, when Township Councillor Kim Richter ran for the party.
Darnell, a Langley lawyer, has owned and operated her own law firm here since being called to the bar in 1995. It started as a one-person firm with some occasional bookkeeping help, but she now has five lawyers on staff and seven other staff members.
It wasn’t exactly an easy road, though.
Darnell worked for 20 years in banking and as a paralegal. She worked at the provincial courthouse in downtown Vancouver, which she calls “the belly of the beast.” High-profile individuals and cases such as Clifford Olson, (former judge) Davie Fulton and the Squamish Five passed through there while she was there.
At the age of 39, she decided to go back to law school and become a lawyer. She started in 1991 and graduated from UBC law school in 1994. She had prior family connections in Langley and decided to set up a practice here.
“I came here not just to practice law, but to become part of the community and to make a contribution.”
That’s what she did. She soon joined the Rotary Club. One of her early mentors was George Preston, of whom she says “he mentored about 90 per cent of Langley.”
She was soon asked to join the Langley Community Services board, and served as its chair for more than six years. During that time, the board and staff had to deal with a very destructive arson fire which destroyed the main LCS facility, and embark on a fundraising campaign to help pay for its replacement. She also served on the board of Kwantlen Polytechnic University for six years.
One of her biggest connections in recent years has been with the Langley Chiefs junior hockey team. While she was not much of a hockey fan, she was encouraged in 2008 to consider billeting a young man on the team at her home. She looked into the program and Mac Roy became her first billet. She was enthused by the fact that members of the Chiefs are working towards university scholarships.
“Everything I learned about hockey I learned from Mac Roy,” she says.
Darnell said she has always had an interest in politics, but was motivated to seek the Liberal nomination as she became more involved with the Chiefs and learned about the saga of the Langley Events Centre. Conservative MP Mark Warawa was lobbied for funds and it appeared at one time that the federal government would contribute towards the construction of the centre, but it never panned out.
“I became very frustrated at what I perceived to be a complete dropping of the ball,” she said. “I don’t see we are getting the quality of representation Langley deserves in Ottawa. I felt it was time I stepped up to the plate and make a larger contribution to the community. I’m not looking for a job. I’m looking to expand my contribution.”
Issues she sees as important ones in this election are a renewed commitment to health care funding and programs like student loan rebates and other incentives for doctors and nurses. She wants an expanded ability to make use of foreign-trained health care workers.
Her top issue is the economy. She says the current government has “out of control” spending, with a record $56 billion deficit. She said the government’s stimulus program “was sprinkling salt in economic wounds.”
She said the Liberals would bring in a budget which would lead to sustainable jobs and long-term stable employment.
She said jobs created through the stimulus program are “short-term jobs, for short periods of time” and many of those who get those jobs “end up back on the public purse.”
She also believes that her firsthand experience with the criminal justice system will serve her well as an MP.
She asks voters to consider her track record in the community.
“I would like to see voters look at candidates on an individual basis first, and at the party second.”