The health of Langley’s environment and the protection of its waterways are top of mind for Shane Dyson.
In fact, it’s a subject that hits close to home for the NDP candidate for Fort Langley-Aldergrove.
Over the past 20 years, Dyson and his wife Leslie have lived and raised three sons on five acres in Aldergrove — a property that draws its drinking water from an aquifer and through which a section of the Salmon River runs.
The couple sees themselves as stewards of the fish-bearing stream, said Dyson.
“The environment is big for us.
“I’m worried about the expansion of the Kinder Morgan pipeline over aquifers and under nearby schools. If there’s ever a break — if the bitumen goes into the ground and water — it will take a long time for nature to flush it out.”
Concern over the potential twinning of the pipeline, which carries bitumen from Alberta’s tar sands to port in Burnaby, is just one reason that Dyson has decided to seek a seat in Victoria.
This is the second time he’s run provincially — the first time was in 2005. He is once again challenging Liberal incumbent Rich Coleman who has held the seat for 17 years.
Dyson has also run unsuccessfully twice for Township council.
“The kids were entering high school and it was a time to pay back. I wanted to advance more good things. It was the right time,” said Dyson of his provincial run eight years ago.
“I wish I’d had a few more votes.”
Although he didn’t win, the campaign was a jumping off point to get involved in other projects including the Salmon River Enhancement Society’s efforts to protect the waterway as well as a number of other social advocacy issues.
With his wife, Dyson owns Face to Face Communications, offering public relations services for education groups and private sector unions.
Not surprisingly, respect for unions and the contracts they hold with the government play into Dyson’s stand on a number of issues.
Asked whether the NDP would revisit bridge tolling over the Fraser River, Dyson replied simply that the contracts are in place.
“The NDP are cognizant of the value of contracts. We’re not going to break a contract and walk away,” he said.
At the same time, he added, those who live south of the river are penalized by the fees.
“There are no tolls on the Sea to Sky, no bridges in Vancouver are tolled.”
And as far as transit — Sky Train and bus service — is concerned, he said, Langley (Aldergrove in particular) has arguably some of the worst service in the Lower Mainland.
“If a kid (in Aldergrove) wants to see a movie tonight at Colossus, they had to catch the bus yesterday.”
Aldergrove is a community with a lot of needs, said Dyson.
“I applaud some of the work the Liberals have done with housing and homelessness on the Downtown Eastside, but we’ve got great long lineups at the food bank in Aldergrove,” said Dyson.
One need that is not exclusive to that community, though, is a hospital that keeps pace with local growth, he said.
“I applaud the expansion of Abbotsford and Surrey hospitals, but our residents can’t necessarily make it to either.
“(LMH) needs to be upgraded, modernized and expanded to meet the needs of a growing population.”
Although he had nothing but praise for doctors, nurses and support staff, Dyson said it’s difficult to provide the best service they can with limited resources.
“Health care is very expensive. We need to talk to healthcare providers to see where the inefficiencies are.
“We have to do more with less.”
It is a similar story with education, said Dyson.
Finding efficiencies and setting priorities are crucial, he said.
“For example, the Liberals plan to do RESPs for kids — they won’t be spent for 12 years. We would take that money and put it in the system right now.”
The “back-breaking” debt carried by many post secondary students is another area that needs to be re-examined, he said.
“In 2005 I wanted to run because I was disappointed in some of the changes the Liberals were making at the time,” Dyson said.
“They reduced income tax 25 per cent. That blows a hole in the budget and leads to service cuts or layoffs.”
Asked about the expansion of gaming as a funding source under the Liberal government, Dyson sighed.
“I’m not a fan of gambling,” he said.
“We allowed gambling when we were in government, but the Liberals expanded it 10-fold. It breaks my heart to walk into a casino … and see people sitting in front of slots. Twenty years ago, they may have (spent that time) volunteering at churches or schools.
“On the other hand, we’ve become dependent on that revenue. It’s not an easy circle to square.”
As far as how Dyson sees his chances in a riding that has been a Liberal stronghold for the better part of two decades, he said that will be up to the voters on May 14.
“Just about everyone I’ve spoken to talks about a need to change for the better.
“Twelve years is too long; it’s a tired government,” he said.
“Rich Coleman is prominent, but (the Liberals’) brand has diminished.”