Harper becomes first PM to visit in 60 years [video]

Excitement was high in the Cowichan Valley as Prime Minister Stephen Harper headed to the Warmland for the very first time Tuesday, Jan. 7. Harper addressed a packed house at Brentwood College’s Crooks Hall, which was stuffed to its capacity of about 600.

"We’re making good decisions, we’re making a better Canada and by the way we’re also investing here in Vancouver Island in British Columbia – this province that is so vital to our future," Harper said as he told the crowd how his government has been working hard, and with great success, to create jobs, improve conditions for First Nations, and keep the Conservatives’ election promises.

He told the crowd he is the first sitting prime minister to visit the Cowichan Valley in 60 years to pay an official visit.

"It seems like every 60 years or so we get a prime minister in Cowichan," confirmed John Koury, president of the Cowichan/Malahat/Langford Conservative riding association.

Before heading to Brentwood, Harper and his retinue made a stop at the historic Kinsol Trestle with scouts, Girl Guides and Trans-Canada Trail representatives.

They gathered in anticipation of a funding announcement and were not disappointed.

In a press release from the prime minister’s website it was announced that over the next four years the Trans Canada Trail, 24,000 kilometres long from coast to coast, public contributions will be matched by the government, one dollar for every two raised by the Trans Canada Trail up to $25 million.

The goal is to have the trail finished by 2017, Canada’s 150th anniversary.

Koury said he’s been trying to get the prime minister to make a stop in Cowichan for some time, and thought until recently that the summer of 2014 might finally see Canada’s leader take in some of the Valley sights.

But that changed early in December. "’I’ve got him coming out in six days’," a representative of the prime minister’s office told him, Koury recalled.

Things changed again when just before Harper was set to arrive Nelson Mandela died, leaving world leaders everywhere clearing their schedules to make time to honour the revered statesman.

The trip was rescheduled for January, excellent timing from the riding association’s perspective, said Koury. Due to federal boundary changes, Langford has been added to the Cowichan riding, and so a new riding association has just been formed. Koury said the presence of the prime minister is an "excellent" way to launch the new organization.