By David F. Rooney
Gerry Taft, the man NDP members in this constituency have selected to replace three-term MLA Norm Macdonald in next year’s provincial general election, was in Revelstoke on Monday to press the flesh and generally make a good impression.
According to people who attended a meeting for party members at the home of Virginia Thompson and Robin Brooks-Hill, Taft managed to make the kind of lasting first impression he sought.
“Gerry has big shoes to fill in replacing Norm Macdonald, but I liked his calm manner when he spoke to our group,” said Sarah Newton. “As far as first impressions go, I also felt he had a handle on environmental issues that we discussed, from Site C to conservation. He has a reputation of being a successful small businessman, family man and local (Invermere) politician.
“We talked at length about poverty and how it is impacting children in our town, and that the high price of living combined with low paying jobs are the norm for many parents of Revelstoke children. I hope that he will be elected and that he will represent the concerns of everyday people in our region at the provincial legislature.”
Taft is a small businessman from Invermere where he owns a café and gelato shop. He was first elected to Invermere council in 2002, at the age of 20.where he is also mayor. Just last month he won the NDP’s selection process to become the man party members hope can defeat BC Liberal Party candidate Doug Clovechok and keep Columbia River-Revelstoke painted a vibrant NDP orange during next May’s provincial general election.
Virginia Thompson said that, based on what he had said in two previous meetings she had also attended she had “found him to be a good listener and very personable.”
“Monday night I was very impressed with how well he talked. I believe he has a particular contribution to make in the area of municipal relations with the province due to his long experience as Councillor for 2 terms and now 3 terms as Mayor in the Municipality of Invenmere. I find him to be intelligent and quick to learn. In all, I like him.”
Her husband, Robin Brooks Hill agreed with her assessment.
“I felt he presented well and seemed quite comfortable with fielding questions around a variety of topics,” he said.
“I was particularly impressed that when a topic was raised he was not yet knowledgeable about, he stated so—a refreshing approach from a politician!”
Local businesswoman Nicole Cherlet noted that Taft “seemed to be sympathetic and understanding of business needs.”
“The juggle of costs versus reasonable wages so our staff can live in our communities, what the governments role in this would be, and how taxing people who don’t make a living wage seems cruel and unusual. Having run his own small businesses in Invermere, he would understand this more than most, and he legitimately seems to care about how to allow EVERYONE to have a sustainable role in our communities.
“But, like I say, actions speak louder than words. MSP Premiums continue to go up year after year and I don’t see any politicians standing up to this head tax on the working poor. Norm MacDonald flat out told me a few years ago that it was political suicide to try and do anything about it. Gerry didn’t give me that response, and I can hope that he would at least try and bring up this hypocrisy. But, I’m the eternal optimist, so who knows!”
Indeed, Taft is an unknowable quantity in this portion of the Columbia River Valley. But it’s still early days as far as getting to know him is concerned. And, we’ll be seeing lot more of him.
“It will remain to be seen what he can make happen,” Cherlet said after speaking with Taft and Macdonald when they dropped by her shop on Monday afternoon.
Please activate the YouTube players below to listen to Taft and Norm: