Kelowna-Lake Country Liberal candidate Stephen Fuhr.

Election 2015: Kelowna-Lake Country Liberal candidate sees Canada’s global influence slipping away

Stephen Fuhr says Canada is now too quick to take sides in international conflicts.

Kelowna-Lake Country Liberal candidate Stephen Fuhr says he decided to run for political office in part because, travelling abroad, when he looked back at Canada, increasingly, he didn’t like what he saw happening here.

That wasn’t just his view, it was coming from other people in other countries as well.

“I talked to a lot of other people about their perceptions of Canada,” said the retired Air Force major who, after starting, running and selling an aircraft satellite communications business here, worked as a private pilot.

“The perception of what you see is influenced by what others see.”

But the seeds for his change from pilot to would-be politician were sown earlier. It was the Conservative government’s decision to replace Canada’s aging jet fighter fleet with a controversial new plane, the F-35, that started him on the road to politics.

As someone who not only flew fighter planes for the RCAF for years, but also managed part of the fighter program as an officer, he knew the government’s decision to buy the F-35 was the wrong one.

And the more closely he looked at the issue, the more concerned he became.

“If (the Conservative government) could get that so wrong, what else could it get wrong?” said Fuhr.

So after doing his research, finding his values meshed more with the Liberal Party than the Conservatives, who he has said he voted for while serving in the military, Fuhr joined the Liberal Party and soon found himself on its Kelowna-Lake Country riding association’s board.

When it came to seeking candidates for the Liberal nomination for the upcoming federal election, he was asked to run.

He did, and was named the candidate in June 2014.

Fuhr was one of the first Liberal candidates in the country to be nominated for the Oct. 19 election.

The 46-year-old, who was born in Edmonton, raised in Kamloops and educated at Trinity Western University in Langley before embarking on his 20-year military career, said he was concerned Canada, once known for its reputation as an honest broker in world affairs, is now too quick to take sides.

And that is hurting its reputation abroad.

“You have to play to your strengths and the major strength we have—but are quickly losing—is our influence,” said Fuhr.

Despite his experience representing Canada in other parts of the world, Fuhr said it’s at home where he would like to help make change.

He points to issues like water, recently dubbed the top priority for the City of Kelowna, as an area that could benefit from infrastructure spending by the federal government. And he points to the party’s three-part infrastructure plan that would spend a total of $60 billion over 10 years on social, green and transportation projects.

Fuhr concedes this area has seen federal funding in the past, but said it’s hard to quantify how well the riding has done because, in his words, “we don’t know how much was left on the table.”

If elected MP, he has vowed to work hard to make sure municipalities in the riding get their fair share of federal tax dollars for programs they need to complete.

And, to that end, he said he has already done much of the legwork outside the riding to become known to some of the people who may be making those decisions should the Liberals form the next government.

In addition to  knocking on an estimated 11,000 doors and making 4,000 phone calls in the riding since getting the nomination, Fuhr said he has also developed relationships with others inside and outside the party in Ottawa so, if elected, he won’t be just a “fresh face” when seeking federal funds for Kelowna-Lake Country area projects.