Veteran campaigner Mike Bocking is back, and he's hoping to take the Maple Ridge-Mission seat for the New Democrats in the May 2013 provincial election.
This will be the second time Bocking will challenge B.C. Liberal Marc Dalton, who edged ahead of his NDP rival to take the riding by just 68 votes in their nailbiter election contest in 2009.
"It was one of the closest races in B.C." said Bock-ing, who has also unsuccessfully challenged MP Conservative Randy Kamp in the past three federal elections.
Still, after building his profile in those campaigns over the years, he feels votes could very well go his way this time around.
Provincially, the area has supported the NDP in the past - former forests and fisheries minister Dennis Striefel held the seat for the party from 1991 to 2001.
Bocking also takes encouragement from NDP compatriot Gwen O'Mahony, who won the spring by-election in Chilliwack-Hope, in what was historically a staunch Conservative stronghold.
In the NDP nomination contest, Bocking beat Maple Ridge lawyer Bob D'Eith, who he described as "a very strong candidate," 81 votes to 45 at the Nov. 25 meeting in Silverdale. The two began campaigning 14 months ago, when there was speculation that Premier Christy
Clark may call an early election.
"The party wanted the ridings to be ready, particularly in those that had a strong chance" of winning, Bocking said.
A former reporter with the Vancouver Sun in the 1980s, Bocking has been a newspaper union representative since 1988, and is now the president of the Communications, Energy and Paperworkers Union, Local 2000, also known as the media union.
But his union background doesn't mean Bocking is anti-business - with the shaky global economy as the underlying context, he wants to see B.C. regain a balance between business and public interests.
"Business is an important part of a healthy economy but so are working people. In the last 12 years, the government has been increasingly focused on the top end of the scale, on large corporations. I have nothing against corporations but we also need to pay attention to the working and middle classes. The balance has been skewed," he said.
One way of restoring that balance and aiding the economy is to address skills shortages - an issue raised by both business and unions - by funding skilled worker training and post-secondary education.
"We are falling behind in productivity because there is less investment in skills training. Investment in people through skills and education is a good way of growing the economy and prosperity," Bocking said. He pointed to the "ridiculous" situation of bringing in 200 Chinese nationals to work in a Tumbler Ridge-area coal mine in a province that has a long history in coal mining.
There are likely skilled workers in B.C. who could do the work, but if not, training should be made available for local residents who are looking for stable employment, he said. Additionally, a freeze on funding post-secondary institutions has forced universities to raise fees, adding more barriers for those seeking training, he said.
Locally, Bocking would work to develop a much-needed public transit connection between Mission and Maple Ridge.
Since the Liberals downgraded medical services at the Mission Memorial Hospitals, more patients, particularly seniors, are required to go to Maple Ridge for treatment, he said.
The environment is also a priority for his party, he said, and they'd work with the federal government to implement measures to protect the salmon fishery recommended by the Cohen report.
"Hatcheries should be enhanced on the north side of the [Fraser] river, at Inch Creek, Weaver and one by Chehalis. There are a lot of development pressures [on fish habitat] and we need to have government inspectors in place to monitor," Bocking said.