Kamloops-Thompson-Cariboo candidate profile: Bob O'Brien, independent

Get to know Bob O'Brien

This week, Castanet Kamloops is going to help you get to know the six candidates looking to represent the Kamloops-Thompson-Cariboo riding in Ottawa. We will be posting a video and a Q&A for each of the six local hopefuls running in the Sept. 20 federal election. Each candidate is asked the same questions and their answers are published in full.

Here is the lineup for this week's special election coverage: Monday: Bill Sundhu, NDP; Tuesday: Bob O'Brien, independent; Wednesday: Jesse Mccormick, Liberal; Thursday: Corally Delwo, People's Party of Canada; Friday: Iain Currie, Green; and Saturday: Frank Caputo, Conservative.

Castanet Kamloops: Who are you and why do you want to be MP? Tell us about yourself — where are you from, what do you do and what will you bring to the table?

Bob O’Brien: "The reason I’m getting into politics is because I’d like to see change happen in this country. I think the government is spending way too much money on things that it’s being wasted on, and not enough on the things that it should be spent on.

"I’ve been in Kamloops since 1989. Most people know me from either the nightclub business or the construction industry."

What experience do you have that makes you qualified to represent this riding in Ottawa?

O’Brien: "I think the biggest experience I have is that I can listen to people, understand what their concerns are, and then talking with the people that have solutions. So my background as a project manager means that's what I do, I bring the stakeholders together, we sort out the problem, we find solutions, and then we try and implement them."

What local issues do you think you would be able to tackle as MP?

O’Brien: "I'm gathering information on local issues. And with that, hopefully we can come up with solutions. And then I think the answers and the questions are actually what comes from the community. What we bring to Ottawa is what would come from them."

What are your thoughts on vaccine passports, as introduced by the B.C. government last week?

O’Brien: "I would hopefully think people would understand that COVID is here, now. Our problems are going to be here long after COVID. So if we could really just go past COVID. I've been vaccinated, we should probably go past COVID and try and look at the issues."

Are you double vaccinated for COVID-19? If not, why not?

O’Brien: "I took my time and waited before I took my first vaccine. I don't think we fully understand what we're dealing with yet. And, you know, I put it off. But for the safety of people around me, I did take the vaccine, both of them. And I hope I haven't made a bad choice."

What do you think needs to be done to combat the social issues plaguing Kamloops streets and, if elected, what would you do about it?

O’Brien: "I'll be going to the AMK [Addiction Matters Kamloops] meeting here on Wednesday, and talking with them. I don't think I can jump out and give you answers. I think I’ve got to find out how we can help from the people that know what they need, as opposed to me saying this is what we are going to do."

What are your thoughts on climate change in general?

O’Brien: "Climate change is affecting every issue in this election, whether you see it or you don't see it, it's affecting every issue. It's affecting how government is dealing with carbon emissions, it’s about the economy, it's about how we control fires. It's about education, housing, affordable housing, everything is tied into it. Whether you see it or not, it's all tied into it.

"I'd like to give an example of carbon emissions here. The government is very concerned about carbon emissions, and I get that. It's how they're dealing with it. First off, one third of the carbon emissions of the last four years has been from uncontrolled wildfires.

"That’s one-third for the whole country. The cost of the wildfires was $650 million over four of the last five years. So I don't think they're handling that properly. We have to control the wildfires before they become wildfires. We have to do preventative maintenance. And in that respect, I think, it's just an example, but it's one way the government's attitude and thinking has to change."

The Kamloops-Thompson-Cariboo riding area is routinely impacted by wildfire. If elected, would you endeavour to take any steps to prevent or better fight wildfires? If yes, what would they be?

O’Brien: "Throughout this campaign, I'm doing research and talking to people. I talked to one of the ranch hands at Benedict Ranch, one of the owners. And I talked to one of the chiefs for the firefighters, that were fighting the fires there. And we sat down, we had a nice little chat. And this is what came out of it. If you're from the air, you know this: a long hot dry spell, thunderstorm, fires. We knew that, anyone from the area knew that.

"We should have had the army here before the fires started. And I don't mean 300 guys, I mean 5,000 guys. I think we should be training the army to fight climate change. And one of the problems that's coming out of climate change is the fires. So we could have had 5,000 people here when the first fire started, it could have been put out.

"Saying that what the guy that was fighting the fires said, the temperatures fighting these fires are ridiculously hot. Because we're fighting fires in all our equipment, it makes it so difficult to do. A better approach would be, instead of these paying these guys to fight the fires, let's pay them in March, February, when they can get into the bush to mitigate the fires. To bushwhack, to make firebreaks to look at the areas. Let’s use the helicopters instead of dropping water on these areas, to circle the areas and pick out spots that we know are going to be a problem. And so this was their solution, was preventative maintenance.

"I think if we just kind of listen to the people, the loggers, the ranchers, they know what's a problem, you just have to go to them and say, ‘hey, what do you think? Yeah, that's got to be fixed up there.’ They know. So let's talk to the people that know, and talk to the people that have thought this through. And have had to deal with the fires for last little bit. And then let's talk to our government.

"And that's what I'll bring to Ottawa. We can do this. And guess what? We can save money."

If elected, what would your first priority be for the riding?

O’Brien: "The first priority, running as an independent, will be to go to Ottawa and establish connections. There's 42 independents running in this country because they're all not happy with Ottawa. They've all lost faith in the parties. And there's a very good reason for that.

"This country is divided into the 338 ridings, 199 of those writings are in Ontario and Quebec. All the party's headquarters are in Ontario and Quebec. They know if they want to win the election, they have to make those people happy. That's where their votes are. So every election promise you hear is based on those two provinces, the rest of the country is an afterthought. And that is a problem.

"That's why people have lost faith, that’s why people to stop voting. Thirty per cent of the population in this riding do not vote. And that is why. They're not being represented. You can vote for anyone you want to, doesn’t matter, really. Because when they get to Ottawa, they go to the back of the bus, they don't get a voice, they don't get to say anything. They're specifically picked by the party because they're willing to sit there and not say anything. Except for what the party's views are.

"So we don't get representation from here to Ottawa. What we get is Ontario, Quebec and Ottawa have representation here, not our voice there. And that is the problem. That's why people don't want to vote.

"So, I think my first thing I'll do when I get to Ottawa is make alliances with somebody so that our voices get heard."

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