Long-serving Cariboo-Prince George MP Dick Harris announced on Saturday he will not be seeking another term in the next federal election.
After announcing his retirement from politics to supporters and friends on Saturday morning, Harris threw his support behind Todd Doherty's bid for the nomination. Doherty announced his plans to run for the nomination Saturday afternoon.
"I always said if there came a time when getting up and doing my job with the enthusiasm required, or energy required... is not there, then it's time to go," Harris said. "I'm 70 years old, although my wife says I don't look it. [And] I've had a few little health problems over the last couple years. That has effected my energy."
Harris was first elected in 1993 under the Reform Party banner and is currently in his seventh term in office.
He said he took time to weigh the options before deciding to endorse Doherty.
"I know this riding pretty well. I've lived in this community for 53 years," he said. "It's not going to be an easy election anymore. [And] the person who has the best chance to win this riding in the election is Todd Doherty. The next person has to be very electable and Todd has that in spades."
Harris said he first met Doherty when he was working for the Prince George Airport. Harris said he was impressed with Doherty's enthusiasm, dedication and intelligence.
An MP needs the ability to "reach out and touch people, and have them reach out and touch you," he said – a characteristic he sees in Doherty.
TOUGH RACE AHEAD
Doherty told supporters he's been waiting for months to be able to officially announce his candidacy, after unofficially expressing his interest back in September.
"My name is Todd Doherty, and I want to be your next member of Parliament," he said to cheers from supporters. "I'm here, I'm in our community and I'm in it for the right reasons."
Doherty said he expects the nomination race to be fierce.
In September local consultant Nick Fedorkiw announced his intention to run for the Conservative Party nomination in Cariboo-Prince George. Vanderhoof teacher Gerald Caron has also announced he'll seek the nomination.
Mayor Shari Green, a longtime Conservative, is not seeking reelection in the November municipal election and is rumoured to be considering running for the Tory nomination in the riding. However, Green has not announced her intention to run.
Local businessman T.J. Grewal is also expected to enter the nomination race.
"I'm not counting anyone out," Doherty said. "I'm going to need each and every one of you."
In his past roles at the Prince George Airport, Edmonton International Airport and 2015 Canada Winter Games he said has experience representing the region at the national and international level.
"We are at a critical point in our region," he said. "We need a strong economy to continue to grow as a region. Our population is stagnant. We continue to lose families to other communities and other provinces."
In order to realize that growth a collaborative approach is going to be needed, he said. Government needs to listen to and work with local groups and First Nations to promote development in mining, oil and gas, agriculture and renewable energy, while still "ensuring our lands, waterways and wildlife are protected."
The tailings pond spill at Imperial Metals' Mount Polley gold and copper mine near Likely in August is an example of what can happen if development isn't managed correctly, he said.
"We don't need to talk, we need to listen," he said. "When we stand together, our collective voice is stronger."
Doherty said he would be a strong advocate in Ottawa for increased investment in transportation infrastructure in the region to ensure development's in the north are globally competitive.
"If we don't plan today, we will fail tomorrow," he said. "We live in an incredibly abundant region. We have so much opportunity."
In order to promote local opportunities he would advocate for streamlining of red tape and elimination of trade barriers to Canadian products. Doherty said he would also advocate for increased federal government services in Prince George, as a regional hub for the region.
"I wear my heart on my sleeve and I'm not perfect – I will stumble," he said. "Every day I wake up, I want to effect people positively. I will advocate for your families as if it was my own."