Running for the BC Liberals for the Mid Island Pacific Rim riding, Darren DeLuca wants to bring the voice of the people to the government.
DeLuca is a long-term resident of the community. He was born in the Alberni Valley and has lived in the Valley for more than 40 years—now his family lives here, too.
“I’m tired of the town really being about poverty and low income,” he said. “It’s a great place to live, it’s a great place here.”
He sees this election as a chance to take it back.
“I think it’s so important now that we have a voice in Victoria,” he said. “A voice at the table, a voice in the government’s side of the house. We can change the community, we can change people’s lives if we’re in the room where the decisions are made.”
This year, the BC Liberals have a Vancouver Island-specific platform that is specific for Port Alberni. $100,000 has been committed from the government to jumpstart the Alberni Valley Aquatic Center recreation facility. This money would provide a business plan that would define the design, location and funding for the Aquatic Center.
“I think we’re long overdue for an Aquatic Center, our current one is 50 years old,” said DeLuca. “It benefits everyone in the community, from the elderly, to the youth, to the people who can’t get out to Sproat Lake. For community infrastructure, it needs to happen.”
DeLuca said that his campaign won’t be based on repeated party lines. “I’m looking at a very locally driven campaign,” he said. “Local economic development, projects that will make a difference in the community.”
A number of projects focus on highway improvements. DeLuca wants to update the Cathedral Grove master plan, especially to address the issues of parking.
“The last time it was updated was 1992. That was 25 years ago,” he pointed out. “I was able to convince government it’s time for that to be updated.”
The new master plan will consider improving amenities, improving the parking and looking at park expansion.
Another highway project is the Meadowwood Connector, which is a two-and-a-half kilometre connector that runs from just east of Little Qualicum Falls to Highway 19. The project is twofold, in that it cuts 12 to 16 kilometres off the trip to the freeway, but also provides access to the isolated community of Meadowwood.
“They look out their living room windows at the freeway,” said DeLuca. “But they have to drive 16.5 kilometres to get on it. So they are very much wanting access to the freeway. They have a huge fire risk out there.”
The number one issue in the community, according to DeLuca, is fibre supply.
“We’re sitting on the biggest fibre basket in the province right around us here and our mills have no wood,” he said. “We need to bring sovereignty back to our forest policies. We need to quit crafting forest policy that caters to the Americans, and we need to start making the wood in this community available to the people who are willing to invest into our value added.”
The campaign has been running quickly, and DeLuca plans to reach out over the next few weeks to those on the ground to get the word out about his campaign.
“We’ll be attending a few all-candidates and that type of thing,” he said. “All-candidates are a good chance to meet the public, but they’re not a good chance to meet the undecided public. We’re really going to try and reach out into the community. We’re really feeling a groundswell of support.
“I think the community is looking for someone who lives in the community, for someone who’s going to work hard and someone who’s going to be on the side of government,” he said. “I think those are the three major things that are going to be driving people’s choices this year. I think it’s going to be a very community-oriented decision people make.”