Incumbent BC Liberal MLA John Rustad believes there is a big difference this time from the 2017 election and insists that in terms of priorities, his job is to ensure he can help people, and to build confidence in the province and get the economy going.
“B.C. was the strongest economy in Canada, and we had the lowest unemployment rate, we had a good surplus, our budget was strong, it was a very very different time than where we are today. Today the economy is struggling, our unemployment rate is middle of the pack or worst. The province’s books are in trouble and more so, we have this pandemic that we are dealing with and there is a lot of fall out from this. So the world is completely different from 2017.”
Understanding the difficulties of building and sustaining the economy comes from his experience owning Western Geographic Information Systems Inc., his consulting firm.
“Starting and running my own company gave me a really good understanding of just how hard it is to create a work climate where you could keep people working. I refer to it this way, it’s signing the front side of the pay cheque, and that responsibility is really quite something and so when I was running my company, I always kept that in mind. You know, it is not just about the company being successful but also people’s livelihoods that you are now responsible for. The decisions you make impact other people directly,” said Rustad.
Another defining moment Rustad shared was of a grandmother who visited his office, wanting to adopt her grandson, but frustrated and in tears because of the delays by the bureaucracy. Rustad and his team were able to eventually help the grandmother adopt her grandson.
“That’s the most important thing for me that I have learned in my time in politics; the ability to help an individual. It is something to be proud about—that you have actually been able to help somebody and made some difference. And there have been countless stories like that, that my office has been able to help individuals and that’s something I am very proud of,” said Rustad.
When it comes to finding a highlight in his life so far, for Rustad, it has been to meet his wife, get married and to be able to live “where we live in the peace and tranquility of rural BC. All of that for me is a highlight.” And Rustad tries to make the most of his time amidst the outdoors of B.C. His love for golfing, hunting, fishing and kayaking and his love for outdoors particularly in fall, is what he enjoys most beyond politics.
“We used to do a lot of field work and I remember when I was doing the field work in fall, that was always the best. The forest kind of going to sleep for the winter, the crisp mornings,” he added.
The fondness towards the riding is however more than the beauty of the region or the weather, for Rustad.
“The one thing about Nechako Lakes that always makes me really proud of the riding is the people, anybody who moves here, I tell them, the people living in the riding are always willing to help. They are small communities, they are straightforward and people like to pull together and help one another. That’s a big difference between here and urban areas,” said Rustad.
Rustad also said that these communities and people, especially the forest sector which has gone through several crisis in the past years, is leaving the riding vulnerable.
”I care about the people and communities in my riding, particularly the forest sector. We need to be able to support families and community. We are in an unprecedented time with the pandemic and the economic crisis that has come up from it, and with my background and experience, I think I can help our riding and the province.”