SOWK Liberal candidate wants to create change

The local Liberal Party candidate believes current marijuana legislation is not working for Canadians.

The local Liberal Party candidate believes current marijuana legislation is not working for Canadians.

Summerland’s Connie Denesiuk was named the Liberal candidate this past weekend in the South Okanagan-West Kootenay riding for next year’s federal election.

She ran unopposed, but that doesn’t mean she isn’t ready for some debate. She is voicing her opinion on a hot button issue: marijuana laws.

“Decriminalization of marijuana is not difficult for me to support,” she said. “With regards to legalization, I think we need to learn from the experiences of those states south of our border and other jurisdictions that have legalized marijuana.”

For Denesiuk, it comes down to citizen safety.

“The bottom line for me is the health, well-being and safety of our citizens, so a question I have is: does removing the criminal and gang element from producing and selling marijuana make our communities safer?” she asked.

“Prohibition as it exists today is clearly not working.”

Stephen Harper and the Conservative Party of Canada (CPC) take a polar opposite view on the situation and Denesiuk says they are just plain wrong.

“Attack ads have promoted the Stephen Harper thinking that legalizing marijuana will put it into the hands of kids,” she said.

“My response to that is I don’t want to see marijuana in the hands of kids either, and I’ve been doing some of my own informal research. I have been asking 12 to 18-year-olds in our riding if it is easier for people their age to get cigarettes or pot. The response has been, without exception, that pot is easier to get. If pot were regulated and not gang controlled, I believe it would in fact take pot out of the hands of our youth.”

Before changes to constituency borders earlier this year, local voters leaned towards the NDP party, with the Liberal Party receiving just under 2,000 votes in the last federal election. Denesiuk says she believes the voters are ready for something  new.

“I believe the people of the South Okanagan – West Kootenay are ready for a Member of Parliament who takes their voice to Ottawa, rather than have the voice of Ottawa imposed upon them,” she said.

“I think voters are ready for a change. This is a great opportunity for that. The only way we can move forward successfully, which we want to do, is spend a lot more time in Trail and the Kootenays to get to know the people, what is important to them and how to move forward.”

Before submitting her name as the Liberal Party’s federal nominee, Denesiuk knew about the changes that were coming to the riding, and already got a head start on her campaigning.

“The first thing I did was spend a few days travelling through, to get to know the riding,” she said. “I spent time in every community and in Trail, I had a tour guide take me around.

“I met some people at the Colombo Lodge, had a look around the dam and the hospital and some other areas. It was a chance for me to get to know the community.”