Swing ridings swung on election night – By Ray Hudson

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Ian Paton

Delta South returns to Liberal roots

By Ray Hudson

Ian Paton
Ian Paton

There was a changing of the guard in both Delta North and Delta South on election night which saw a political newcomer, Ravi Kahlon return the riding to the NDP side, defeating the Liberal  incumbent, Scott Hamilton by 1,800 votes. This riding was held by Guy Gentner for the NDP for two terms prior to Hamilton’s term.

In Delta South, Liberal Ian Paton, former Delta Councillor, well-known local farmer and businessman brought the riding back into the Liberal fold, after two term’s represented by Independent Vicki Huntington, with a 4,500 vote margin over his closest rival. Ray Hudson spoke with Mr. Paton, asking what drew him into politics?

Ian Paton: I’d always been a community-minded guy involved in all sorts of things. I’d been a farmer with a farm auction business and never even considered politics. In 2010 following the death of Councillor George Hawksworth, Mayor Lois Jackson and Councillor Bruce MacDonald cornered me one evening and said I should run in the by-election. After three weeks of people phoning and pushing me, saying it was a good idea, I relented and went for it. I won by 1300 plus votes over the other seven candidates, and so began my education in municipal politics. About three years into my municipal run (four years ago) the Liberals wanted me to run in South Delta. I decided that I needed more experience and said I’d run four years later, which was this election.

Ray Hudson: What made you want to contest this election?

Ian Paton: My top three things are preserving agricultural land, keeping things the way they are for the next fifty years or so and putting a stop to any new highways going through our farmland or railway lines. That’s important to me. My dad was chairman of the Agriculture Land Commission back in the eighties, so I’m third generation living on the family farm in East Delta.  Preserving farmers is very important to me. We’ve got to make sure these guys are making a decent living.

Ray Hudson: Do you include the greenhouse farming industry as well?

Ian Paton: There came a time in Delta when the greenhouses started showing up and there was a lot of discussion about whether or not we wanted them, The Delta Farmers Institute had to make a decision that they could legally go on farmland. We’ve accepted them in Delta and in a lot of ways are envious because of the problems we have with weather. Right now we’re two months behind the spring planting because of all the rain, yet you step into one of the greenhouses where  you can walk around in your T-shirt because it’s so nice and warm inside and there’s hundreds of tons of tomatoes and cucumbers and peppers being grown. They’re probably producing twenty-five times more product than we dirt farmers can, who hope to farms six months of the year in this southern BC climate. So preserving and protecting our agriculture base is very important to me. Everyone talks about saving farmland, but you have to save the farmer first because if the farmer’s making a good living, he’ll continue to farm on that land, but if everybody’s going broke farming, pretty soon they’ll be putting For Sale signs on it and saying ‘let’s find some other use for this farm!’

Ray Hudson: Is there a problem with farmers being pushed up against the corporate farm?

Ian Paton: I don’t see it that much in BC. I’ve been in the farm auction business for years and we’re still doing auctions for family farms. There aren’t too many corporate farms other than green houses. In Delta, the potato farms are all still family run.

Ray Hudson: As I drive around Delta I find there is an explosion of enormous houses on farm properties. How do you view this?

Ian Paton: I’ve got a great answer for that in Delta. Any monster homes you see in Delta we’re built before we changed the bylaw. About eight years ago Delta decided this was crazy. These monster homes were going up, people were buying farmland reasonably cheap, and building their dream home at a ridiculous twelve thousand square feet, eighteen thousand square feet. It’s still happening in Richmond, Langley, Aldergrove and Surrey because they haven’t brought in a bylaw. The bylaw now says that if you own less than twenty acres you can only build to thirty-five hundred square feet. If you own more than twenty acres you can build to five-thousand square feet so that’s the biggest home you can build now. Also it has to be situated on the front corner of the property to get around these guys who build it back on the property and then build a long wide driveway across it to the house. That’s just a waste of farmland so now we’re telling them the home plate can only be 60 metres by 60 metres on the corner of the property. So, I think we’ve fixed that.

Another concern I have is protecting the Delta Hospital. There’s been a lot of concern over the years about it. My Dad was one of those guys who, back in the sixties, wanted to get a group together and build a hospital in Delta. My Mom was one of the original members of the hospital auxiliary in the sixties, and at age 89 still volunteers a couple of days a week with them. My sister, who has just retired, was a nurse for 27 years at the hospital, my wife Pam is on the Hospital Foundation board of directors, and I’ve raised hundreds of thousands of dollars over the years with my auctioneering talent at the hospital galas and golf tournaments year after year.

Then I got involved with the Delta Division of Family Practice and got a meeting with Scott Hamilton and Terry Lake, the Health Minister, two to three years ago and got some funding.  We’ve got three full operating rooms at the hospital now and they’re operating much later into the evening. We have an orthopedic surgeon that we brought out from Nova Scotia so we have a full time surgeon at the hospital, we have a cast clinic, and the Toigo family donated $2.5 million toward a diagnostic centre with CT Scanner. It should be up and running toward the end of the summer.

Ray Hudson: At the provincial level, where do your interests lie.

Ian Paton: Agriculture is high on my agenda, and I would be happy to be on a committee concerned with agriculture because my Dad travelled the province with the Land Commission.  Being a dairy farmer I understand how our system works, with supply management being at some risk at the moment with Donald Trump opposed to our quota systems.

The BC Liberals are all about jobs and people making a good living. I see that jobs are so easy to come by right now. They may not be the best jobs right now but any kid walking out of high school right now can get a job just about anywhere. We’ve had it pretty good down here. But I really believe it isn’t just about metro Vancouver. We have this huge province and we can’t forget about all the people that live in the little towns in the north, the Kootenays or the middle of the province. They are relying on good jobs too. We are a resource based economy and it’s very diversified from forestry and mining to transportation and fishing, people who are waiting for pipelines to be built.

When everybody’s working, they can be able to enjoy their life in BC, and they will add to the tax base in the province which the government can add to health care, education and to build the new bridge to replace the tunnel (which I’m in favour of). We need to keep it going and growing.