Ken Bolton spent August traveling across the country to visit new grandchildren in Halifax.
But he cut his vacation short when a federal election was called so that he could be at the local NDP’s nomination meeting Thursday at Hellaby Hall in downtown Whitehorse.
The 85 party members in attendance rewarded his sacrifice with a nod to carry the party’s banner in the race for the Yukon’s sole parliamentary seat, currently held by three-time incumbent Larry Bagnell.
With a Liberal representing the riding and a Conservative government at the helm in Ottawa, Bolton made the case as the candidate for radical change to the way this country is run.
The 62-year-old former local NDP spokesperson beat other nominees Robin Reid-Fraser and Peter Becker with 60 per cent of the vote.
“We have an uphill battle ahead of us,” said Bolton. “I would be so thrilled if, with your help, I can follow in the footsteps of Audrey McLaughlin and Louise Hardy who represented the Yukon so admirably,” he said. Campaign posters from their campaigns hung on the walls during the meeting.
Bolton’s cross-Canada journey was the centrepiece of his nomination speech, which described homelessness in Edmonton, hurricane damage in Halifax and oil drilling in Alberta.
He talked about a former girlfriend in P.E.I who died when the cancer in her one remaining kidney was not caught in time. Her family doctor had retired and she could not find another.
“There are six million Canadians who are in this situation,” said Bolton.
The NDP meeting brought generations from campaigns past together with new party members. The mood was festive and upbeat as the members rallied around their new candidate.
It was a family affair for many in attendance, including second-place candidate Robin Reid-Fraser whose father had placed her name on the ballot.
Reid-Fraser received a standing ovation when Ken Bolton applauded her decision to run as a nominee.
“I think one of the things we’ve seen tonight is the start of a long and very, very impactful political career,” said Bolton.
Margaret McCullough, 76, nominated Ken Bolton. Her son, James McCullough, was in attendance with his wife Linda Koh, and their 20 month-old daughter, Aurelius.
A former legislative candidate himself, James said the biggest issue for him in this election is what will happen to the federal transfer payments.
“The territorial government gets $600 million a year from the federal government,” he said. “It isn’t sustainable. What will happen if the taps get turned off?”
McCullough didn’t mince words when it came to criticizing sitting MP Larry Bagnell.
“I find (Bagnell) does a lot of glad-handing which is much less issue-based,” said McCullough. “I don’t hear Larry out in the forefront of issues. I hear him in response and spouting his Liberal lines,” he added.
McCullough was also critical of the Conservatives for claiming they are an effective government even while in a minority situation, yet calling an election because Parliament is dysfunctional.
“I’m saying Stephen Harper is trying to have it both ways,” he said.
Audrey McLaughlin also received a salute at the meeting’s opening. She said the Prime Minister Harper doesn’t have the co-operative approach to governance that the NDP offers.
“I think in the North generally and in the Yukon specifically, people here are very adaptable,” she said. “But also there is a strong sense of co-operation, because you have to in the North. And I think that’s something (Harper) doesn’t understand,” she added.
Bolton echoed her statements.
“I honestly don’t believe that Stephen Harper has a vision for the North,” he said. “I don’t think he’s a man for the North.”