Two vie for Conservative nomination

Duncan city councillor and chiropractor Martin Barker and Damir Wallener, an entrepreneur who ran in the last provincial election, are the first two candidates to seek the Conservative nomination in the new federal riding of Cowichan-Malahat-Langford.

Barker, who is in the third year of his first term on Duncan city council, sought the Nanaimo-Cowichan nomination for the 2011 election, when it went to John Koury, who would go to on to lose to NDP incumbent Jean Crowder. With Crowder stepping down and the boundaries redrawn, he believes the riding is now the Conservatives’ to lose, and wants to carry the local banner to Ottawa.

"As a current politician, I believe I have made a good impact in the community, and I believe I can make a big impact on the national level, representing the constituents here," he said.

Often a dissenting voice on Duncan council, Barker is conscious of the value that an individual can have on the political stage.

"One voice can make a huge impact," he said. "Council has benefited from me and my influence in a positive way."

Barker is a longtime supporter of the Conservative Party and the direction that Prime Minister Stephen Harper has taken the country.

"It’s going in the only direction Canada can go in," he said, adding that under Harper, Canada has become "one of the truly important countries in the world."

He wants to be part of carrying on Harper’s legacy on behalf of the Cowichan Valley and neighbouring communities.

"I believe I will give Cowichan a strong, respectable and principled voice in Ottawa," he said.

Wallener ran for the BC Conservative Party in the 2013 provincial election, placing fourth behind incumbent NDP MLA Bill Routley. While he didn’t win, Wallener appreciates everything he learned on the campaign trail.

"It’s an experience I don’t regret for an instant," he said. "I regret the outcome, but I don’t regret the process."

Wallener thinks the Cowichan area deserves a better voice, not just in Ottawa, but in Victoria and on the local level as well.

"I’m not super-thrilled with the level of representation the riding has had," he said. "I feel I can do a better job, and I feel it’s my obligation to try. It starts at the municipal level on up. [Politicians] don’t have a vision for what life in the Valley should be like."

Wallener espouses the federal Conservatives’ commitment to financial restraint.

"At heart I believe in fiscal responsibility," he said. "Let’s figure out what we want to do, but let’s make sure we can pay for it. There’s a lot of give and take, but its part of the process. I’m generally pleased with the direction that the country is going in, and I’d like to bring the Cowichan Valley to the table."

Outside of politics, Wallener works with semiconductors and software, a field he acknowledges is "fairly specialized," but which he feels will help him in politics.

"At the end of the day, the business is about giving people what they need before they know what they need," he said.