Liberal Jonah Gowans represents new gen of political junkies
Twenty six-year-old Liberal Party Candidate Jonah Gowans started his political career at age 8.
Resisting his parent’s attempt to put him to bed one night, Gowans says his exasperated mother asked him, “Who do you think you are? You’re not the prime minister, you know.”
So the next day, he did an Internet search to find out what a ‘prime minister’ was and that kick started his early obsession with politics.
The federal Liberals tapped the Powell-River native to run in the Courtenay-Alberni riding. Until recently, Gowans has lived in Victoria where he works as an assistant for five BC Liberal Party MLAs.
Gowans couldn’t say why the federal party reached out to him, but he’s grateful for the opportunity to make his first run at public office.
Asked why they went outside the riding for a candidate, Liberal riding association President Ken Richardson said the party’s local board of directors believed Gowans would make a good representative in Ottawa.
“Jonah was keen to be a candidate in this riding, and he was the only candidate in Courtenay-Alberni approved by the Liberal Party’s Green Light Committee,” Richardson told Decafnation.
A new generation
As a self-described political junkie with a bachelor’s degree in political science from the University of Ottawa, Gowans says it’s time for his generation of future leaders to do their part.
“I consider my age an asset, not a threat,” he told Decafnation this week. “We’re a generation with new ideas for the party on how to get things done, and I have as much or more experience on to move legislation as the other candidates.”
Gowans joined the Young Liberals of Canada organization at age 18 after spending time volunteering for various political parties, including the Greens, NDP and federal Liberals. He worked on federal Environment and Climate Change Minister Catherine McKenna’s successful campaign in 2015 and volunteered regularly on Parliament Hill before moving to Victoria to take a position at the BC Legislature.
Although he’s never lived in the new Courtenay-Alberni riding, he has spent a lot of time here. His grandparents live in Port Alberni and he visited Courtenay frequently as a high school athlete who played multiple sports, such as rugby, basketball and track.
“I spent so much time at G.P. Vanier, the coaches there still recognize me,” Gowans said. “I travelled to Vanier on 33 weekends of my senior year in high school.”
On the issues, Gowans is focused on the environment and affordability. He says the concept of affordability permeates many aspects of Canadian life, including housing and health care.
“Young people and seniors are most affected by the lack of affordable housing,” he said. “That’s high on my list.”
He supports Prime Minister Trudeau’s commitment for a national pharmacare program that would extend prescription drug coverage to all Canadians.
“And, of course, jobs. Creating more local jobs helps make everything more affordable,” he said.
The environment and the effects of climate change are important to politically active members of his generation, Gowans says.
He thinks Trudeau has taken a fair and balanced approach to the TransMountain pipeline by “taking our lumps, going back to the drawing board and working through the process, without an adversarial mindset.”
He says everyone on the BC coast fears the consequences of an oil spill.
“But fear can’t be the only thing guiding public policy,” he said. “We won’t get off oil entirely anytime soon. The BC government has set a target of 2040 to eliminate gas vehicles, but we still won’t be oil free even then.”
Gowans believes the pipeline has a place “for the moment,” and he trusts Environment Minister McKenna to stand up for the environment and reel Trudeau back in “if he’s gone too far.”
A clean campaign
Gowans says he will campaign on his ability to get things done.
In grade 12, Gowans and some friends restarted Powell River’s Youth Resource Center and raised enough funds to finance its first year. Then they handed it off to younger teenagers — one of his younger brothers included — and the center is still going eight years later.
He thinks the Oct. 21 election will come down to choice on who Canadians trust the most: Liberal leader Justin Trudeau or Conservative leader Andrew Scheer.
“In many ways, it’s a similar choice that voters had in 2015, when not everyone knew Trudeau,” he said. “Now they do and they will feel more comfortable with their vote for him.”
Gowans says he will run a positive campaign. He doesn’t plan to launch any negative attack ads on incumbent MP Gord Johns as the Conservative candidate Byron Horner has been doing.
“I will show people an alternative approach that I think would work better, not drag somebody else down,” he says. “If you say some policy or other is wrong, show us how you would make it better.”
Gowans plans extensive door knocking in his 8,900 square kilometer riding that stretches from Nanoose to Tofino and from Lasqueti, Denman and Hornby islands to Bamfield. It even includes unlikely pieces of the Comox Valley you would think of as Comox.
He knows the incumbent — NDP Gord Johns — is well-liked and will be a formidable opponent. But he thinks of himself as seasoned in facing tough opponents.
ADVANCE VOTING DATES FOR COURTENAY-ALBERNI AND NORTH-ISLAND POWELL RIVER RIDINGS
Friday, October 11, 2019
Saturday, October 12, 2019
Sunday, October 13, 2019
Monday, October 14, 2019
Or before Oct. 15 at the Elections Canada office at 2435 Mansfield Drive
Courtenay BC V9N2M2
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