From the pulpit, Rick Turner urges his flock to think critically about the federal election.
The pastor’s sermons are apolitical: he abhors apathy, encouraging voter education over partisan politics.
But as an individual — where church separates from the state — Turner and his wife, Nancy, are hammering Conservative candidate Darrell Pasloski’s signs into lawns.
“These are critical times and people cannot afford to be apathetic,” said Turner at a Pasloski rally Wednesday evening.
The event, with an appearance by Indian and Northern Affairs Minister Chuck Strahl, brought about 50 volunteers and supporters to the Royal Canadian Legion Hall.
The Conservatives have spent much effort focusing the election on leadership, an issue that resonates strongly with the Turners.
They’re supporting the Pasloski campaign, but it’s because of Harper.
“We have a man with strong values as prime minister and he’s the perfect man for Canada,” said Turner.
Any Conservative candidate might do, but the couple is sure Pasloski will represent their views well.
“Darrell will embrace the same values as Harper,” said Turner.
“That’s the DNA of the Conservative Party.”
Conservative campaigners are busy defining the election on leadership terms — Liberal Leader Stephane Dion is weak, Harper has the steady hand, they say.
“Prime Minister Harper plans to keep Canada on a steady course in difficult economic times,” said Strahl.
The Conservatives are rolling out reasonable modest proposals, said Strahl.
“We want to live in our means,” he said.
“We don’t just pull that manna from the sky and it falls down on us.”
Dion’s economic plans are based on spurious numbers, said Strahl.
The Liberal budget proposals are based on economic growth of 4.5 per cent.
“But guess what, Stephane? Growth this year is projected to be 1.5 per cent,” said Strahl.
“That’s only positive because we have Stephen Harper leading Canada.”
Financial accountability established during the two and half years of Conservative governance is why Nancy Turner supports Harper.
“You don’t have issues with lost money that we heard about all the time when the Liberals were in government,” she said.
If the finances are in order, everything else falls into place, she added.
Consistent with previous events with media in attendance, Pasloski had few words for his audience.
On the Conservative Party: “What they say is what they do,” he said.
“I run a business. Government is a business. Things have to work, have to make sense.”
Pasloski is running against the Liberal incumbent, Larry Bagnell, NDP’s Ken Bolton and John Streicker of the Green Party.
Earlier in the evening, Strahl accompanied Pasloski to the doorsteps of Whitehorse residents.
“I’m straight lugging for Darrell,” said Strahl.
“That’ll be a great moment for the North for people to elect someone to take their concerns directly to the table in Ottawa.”
Plans for a northern economic development agency — similar to ones based in Western Canada, northern Ontario, Atlantic Canada and Quebec — were announced last week.
Conversations with Pasloski and candidates from the other territory helped develop the idea, said Strahl.
“The influence affects not just budget decision but policy as well,” said Strahl.
“I have not met with anyone more than I’ve met with Darrell Pasloski in the last two years.”
Typically, talk of expanding the bureaucracy is anathema to Conservative, but the new agency is integral to developing economic opportunities in the Yukon, said Strahl.
The agency would bring together federal departments, provincial and civic governments, and industry partners.
The territories need it, said Strahl.
“There isn’t the same kind of emphasis up here as there is in other regions,” said Strahl.
Pasloski opened the floor for questions, and a local physician was the only person to take up the offer.
He asked about health-care funding, specifically the change to per capita funding that will mean a loss of millions of dollars for the Yukon.
Strahl declined to give specifics — it’s not his portfolio, he said — and instead talked about regional infrastructure funding.
Pasloski did not answer the question.
Strahl told the crowd that outstanding land claims need to be settled, whether through comprehensive agreements or ones built piece by piece.
“We’re trying to be as flexible as we can be,” said Strahl in an interview after the event.
“If people want to put together a big solve-it-all package, we’re there. If they’d rather talk about land management arrangements, or talk about resource sharing issues, put that on the table.”
White River First Nation, Ross River Dena Council and the Liard First Nation have unsettled land claims.
Once agreements are in place, solving social ills becomes easier, said Strahl.
“The issues become easier to manage when you have the potential for jobs, and that comes with the certainty of agreements.”
“Without jobs, then any problem is almost impossible to solve.”