Former Olympic rower looks to make political splash

David Calder will represent the B.C. Liberals in South Saanich in the upcoming provincial election

Former Olympic rower David Calder will represent the B.C. Liberals in South Saanich.

Former Olympic rower David Calder will represent the B.C. Liberals in South Saanich.

David Calder’s Olympic rowing career began on Elk Lake. Now he has cast his oars into the frequently turbulent waters of provincial politics by running for the B.C. Liberals in South Saanich, a riding that New Democrats have historically dominated.

Calder’s announcement that he is running completes the local lineup for the three parties with representatives in the provincial legislature.

Green Mark Neufeld had announced his candidacy in November and incumbent New Democrat Lana Popham told the public last week that she would seek a third term.

Popham first won the riding in 2009 by less than two per cent. In 2013, she increased her margin of victory to 10 per cent, suggesting rising popularity.

“I have known Lana for a long time, and I like Lana,” said Calder. “We in fact share a common desire to advocate for the same local issues, and to advance larger provincial issues. What I bring as the B.C. Liberal candidate to the table and what is missing from Lana and the NDP party is strong fiscal management.”

Calder competed for Canada in four consecutive Olympic Summer Games: Sydney (2000), Athens (2004), Beijing (2008) and London (2012). He won silver in Beijing in the coxless pairs with partner Scott Frandsen. He has also won nine Canadian championship titles, nine World Cup medals, and three world championships.

Calder said the “biggest asset” that springs from his history as an Olympian is his “strong grassroots base and track record in the community.” Athletes cannot reach the Olympics unless hundreds of people stand behind them and support them, he said. “I have tried to live my life with integrity, working hard towards noble causes.  High-performance sport is somewhat a selfish endeavour, and now I would like to give back to my community.”

Calder is entering politics with a diverse background. During his competitive career, but between Olympics, he worked in the Ministry of Energy, Mines and Natural Gas in the area of community engagement. He held a similar role with the Olympic and Paralympic Games Secretariat leading up to the 2010 Winter Olympics in Vancouver-Whistler. Since January 2014, Calder has managed the rowing centre on the Gorge Waterway,  facilitating high school rowing, para-rowing, rowing for adults and rowing for youth facing multiple barriers to success. Calder’s website also shows him available for speaking engagements and he has been a local voice commenting on Olympic issues.

Married and the father of two children, Calder has also been an activist on behalf of foster children, having been adopted himself.

Provincial issues that Calder plans to raise include health care, particularly seniors care,  housing affordability and reconciling economic and environmental demands. Locally, he plans to talk about steps to improve transportation and infrastructure, support the technology and sports tourism industries, and preserve farmland within the riding while ensuring landowners can diversify revenue streams and remain on their land.

This third area of interest strays directly into area with which Popham is deeply familiar, both professionally and politically. Popham co-founded and operated Barking Dog Vineyard, the first certified organic vineyard on Vancouver Island, served on numerous local boards and committees dealing with agricultural issues, and currently serves as her party’s agriculture and food critic.

Calder’s candidacy in Saanich South confronts him with considerable odds. Current Saanich Coun. Susan Brice won the riding for the B.C. Liberals in 2001. Since then, the riding has always elected New Democrats.

While Calder acknowledges this history, he also notes that past results have often been tight. “I think that there are many universal values that residents of Saanich South and I share, and often… it comes down to the individual, not necessarily the party, when folks decide who to vote for on election day,” said Calder, adding that he plans to meet as many as riding residents as possible.