The election that is on everyone’s mind is the municipal race, with just over a month until Voting Day.
But there is another race underway in the federal riding of York-Simcoe. Sitting MP Peter Van Loan has announced that he will be retiring from the political arena at the end of this term – leaving a vacancy in the Conservative Party of Canada. The race is now on to nominate a candidate in the riding, for next year’s federal election.
Three candidates have stepped forward to seek the nomination, and the clock is ticking. Each is working to sign up supporters – people willing to join the Conservative Party of Canada and pay the $15 fee, and come out to a future Nomination Meeting to vote. And they only have until September 27 to build that base of support.
Jason Verkaik has been involved in politics for more than a decade – but not from the perspective of a political candidate.
Owner, operator and president of Carron Farms in the Holland Marsh, a fourth generation farmer, past chair of the Ontario Fruit and Vegetable Growers Association, a member of the Canadian Horticultural Council, a director on the Ontario Produce Marketing Board, for years he has been lobbying government on agricultural issues that range from red tape, to international trade.
“I’ve always been involved in that type of leadership role, being on boards and committees,” Verkaik said. “I did a lot of lobbying, and worked on behalf of small business and agriculture.”
Travelling to Ottawa to comment on policies before the Senate committee and agriculture committee, he found himself trying to tell government that “some of the policies are crippling us… They have unintended consequences.”
Verkaik noted: “Over the last eight years I’ve been involved in politics as a leader in farm organizations. I think, watching over time and seeing how you almost had to explain the policy that had already been passed… good intentions don’t always mean good results.”
Now, he said, “rather than lobbying I want to work on the other side, developing policy that’s a lot more practical and efficient.”
That’s why he is seeking the nomination for Conservative Party of Canada candidate in the riding of York-Simcoe. Verkaik has restructured his farm business to allow him to spend more time on his community activities, which include coaching for Bradford Storm minor ball and the Barrie Christian Hockey League, and on politics.
Verkaik has been on the board of the York-Simcoe Conservative Association for years, and he became its president last year. When MP Peter Van Loan announced his retirement from politics at the end of this term, Verkaik said he thought, “Maybe this time.”
With a green light from his wife and two children, he has taken a leave of absence from his role in the association and is throwing his hat into the ring.
“I really do have a passion for this – to be within the community, and make positive change.”
Key issues include protecting Lake Simcoe by reinstating the Lake Simcoe Clean-up Fund, lowering taxes, and improving the environment for business and trade.
“We have to make policies that make Canada open to business. Canada needs to be competitive. If Canada’s not competitive, everything else falls away,” Verkaik said. “Listening, talking with people – we need to rebuild our image as a strong, powerful economic nation.”
In particular, Verkaik is worried that the federal government is handling NAFTA talks “poorly,” and is failing to support both business and agricultural sectors.
Governments have done a good job creating awareness of the need to protect farmland, he said, “but we’ve forgotten about protecting the farmers and the business of farming. We gain nothing from protecting the farmland but not the farmer, and we can extend that out to small business.”
Policies to reduce red tape and eliminate conflicting regulations are on his agenda, as are bringing back the tax credit for parents who put their kids into sports, and the Bradford Bypass (Highway 400-404 Connecting Link).
“A big thing for our riding is the bypass,” said Verkaik. Although it is a provincial project, “if we can fight for some federal dollars, I think it’s time for that to happen. I think the federal government can come into play here with funding.”
Verkaik called for parties to work together, to solve the country’s issues. “Let’s make decisions that go beyond electoral cycles. If we’re thinking four years, nothing gets done to make a proper foundation,” he said. “The people need to shape government, not the government shape people.”
Verkaik is a businessman, family man, and community partner – not only through his coaching, but his contributions to the local food bank, LOFT residence for seniors, and the Teen Challenge program, sharing fresh local produce grown in the Holland Marsh.
“I love where I live. I want the best for this riding because I want the best for my family. This is where I live,” he said. “Our families are the foundation of our community, and that’s the foundation of our country.”
He added, “I believe in my ability to do this. I believe I have the skills." And with his past experience, and provincial and federal contacts, “I’d be able to hit the ground running.”
To connect with Jason Verkaik, visit jasonverkaik.ca, email firstname.lastname@example.org, call 905-758-9439, or check out his Facebook page.