For any West Vancouver voter who doubts that a Pemberton farmer could share enough in West Van’s politics to represent the community in Victoria, consider this: What if that farmer’s earliest memory is of bumping along Marine Drive in the backseat of his parents car and throwing up into a paper bag?
Admittedly, that probably won’t crystallize votes either. But it’s the first anecdote Pemberton farmer, mayor, and B.C. Liberal candidate for West Vancouver-Sea to Sky Country, Jordan Sturdy, chooses to tell when asked about his connection to the North Shore.
Luckily, however, his follow-up anecdote is a bit more, um, expository.
“My great-great-grandfather had one of the very first vacation homes in Horseshoe Bay — in 1910,” he tells The Outlook while commuting between Pemberton and a meeting in downtown Vancouver. “I’ve got a long history there, and my mom currently lives in Gleneagles, my aunt and uncle live in Bowen Island, my sister lives actually in West Vancouver-Capilano.”
The 50-year-old father of two and husband of one is running uncontested, as yet, for the MLA seat that Liberal MLA Joan McIntyre will quit this year. And while the riding has been a Liberal stronghold for over two decades — the party has won with more than half the popular vote since 1991 — Sturdy says it’s just a matter of time before challengers from the New Democrats and Conservatives enter the fray.
“I was joking with somebody the other day that if I was going to be one of those candidates that was parachuted into my choice of any riding in the province, I think this is the one I’d still choose,” he says.
He credits West Van-Sea to Sky’s social and geographical diversity for inspiring that positive outlook; from multi-million-dollar estates in Whistler and West Van, to rural Pemberton and Mount Currie, home to one of the province’s poorest and most populous First Nation reserves.
A Vancouver native, Sturdy moved to Pemberton in the late 1980s, when the small hamlet of 300 was just beginning to blossom into today’s town of nearly 3,000. The town and its surrounds, he says, are a microcosm of the province at large, with distinct urban-rural issues and differing ideas about how to create jobs and a sustainable future.
Indeed, relinquishing the mayor’s chair in the midst of his third term for a seat in the legislature isn’t a decision he’ll make without some reservations, should the voters ask him come May.
“I certainly see the role of the MLA as to some degree an extension of the municipal level,” he says. “I’m interested in doing the same things I do now but at a provincial level… and with a different set of issues.”
A longtime Liberal party member, Sturdy’s attraction to their camp came out of his business background and entrepreneurial spirit.
More than just a hobby farm, Sturdy’s 60-acre family plot employs upwards of three dozen seasonal workers in the high summer months and also features a bakery, a commercial kitchen and a public pick-your-own fruit operation. His North Arm Farm also has business arrangements with high-end restaurants in Vancouver and Whistler to supply them fresh organic produce.
“I guess you could call me a free-enterpriser. And this riding has certainly benefitted from the activities of the government of British Columbia over the last 10 years,” he says. “Before this [Sea-to-Sky] Highway upgrade, I certainly wouldn’t have been in a position to be supplying organic vegetables to restaurants in Vancouver.”
And just as his riding boasts a diversity of industries and interests — forestry, tourism, mining, renewables, agriculture and a deep-water port — Sturdy also benefits from a textured background, having served as a medic with BC Ambulance and a ski patrol at Whistler-Blackcomb, where he still fills the occasional shift.
“I told them that if I get this job then this may be my last season,” he says of the alpine gig he’s casually held for 24 years. “But I was really hoping to try to stick it out to 30 years because then you get a lifetime pass.”
And it’s that kind of long-haul attitude that Sturdy says has gone missing from B.C. provincial politics over the years.
“One of the challenges we face in our political system is that things tend to be election-cycle decisions,” he says. “But like some investments I’ve made on my farm, these aren’t necessarily investments that are going to pay off in a year or two years.”