An invitation for Lake Cowichan’s mayor to attend a simple hike turned out to be a memorable walk with Prime Minister Stephen Harper.
“I’m not sure why I got the invitation, I didn’t know it was going to be with the prime minister,” Ross Forrest told the Gazette of his Jan. 7 jaunt with Harper.
Forrest said he’d earlier received an invitation from the Government Of Canada for a hike and an announcement.
“I knew there was going to be some kind of grant announcement so I agreed to go because I like to represent our community and know what’s going on,” said Forrest, who added he “got wind at the last minute” the walk was to be with Harper.
The PM did indeed have an announcement about grant money in an effort to complete the Trans-Canada Trail in time for Canada’s 150th anniversary, in four years.
The feds announced they would match public contributions — one loonie for every two bucks raised by the Trans-Canada Trail Foundation — up to $25 million to complete the 24,000-km coast-to-coast trail.
Lake Cowichan is the western-most terminus part of the Trans-Canada Trail.
The announcement was made at Mill Bay’s Brentwood College School while approximately 150 wet protesters rallied outdoors.
Despite the feelings of some, Forrest said it was a thrill to meet the prime minister.
“It was a good opportunity to speak with him for a couple of minutes without a protest sign in my hand,” he laughed.
“Not that I wanted one in my hands because I don’t like to get involved in any of that stuff.
“I know there’s a lot of disgruntled people who don’t like him or his party, and that’s fine because people are entitled to their opinions on that and I respect that, but I was there as a representative of my community which I’m thrilled to do when I get the opportunity.”
But it turned out Harper knew a bit about our small lakeside town.
“He told me he’d been here 12 years before,” said Forrest, who added Harper didn’t supply further details of the 2002 visit.
“I didn’t know he’d been here before, but I also found out after talking with the prime minister’s wife (Laureen Harper) that her parents live in Saanichton, so I imagine they do get time here when he’s not on business.”
In all, Forrest said he got about five minutes with Harper during a walk from the Kinsol Trestle.
“My impressions were he was very pleasurable to speak with and talk to,” he said.
Forrest said he lucked out when television personality Valerie Pringle, who was on the same tour as Forrest, asked the mayor to take a picture of her and Harper.
She returned the favour when Forrest handed her his cell phone.
All in all, it was a good day, said Forrest.
“I’m thrilled I was invited to go along.”
I did get to speak to him about my community, which I’m passionate about and for that I’m grateful.