As part of our B.C. election coverage, Black Press asked candidates to submit a bio about themselves, why they are running and what is the most important issue in the Boundary-Similkameen riding.
Roly Russell was born and raised in the Boundary and is a full-time community leader and a strong champion for rural British Columbia. Russell and his wife Christine, along with their two children Juno (9) and Gabriel (13) love the quality of life and culture that rural B.C. offers, including the endless recreational opportunities, resilient food systems and tight-knit community.
Russell brings extensive experience serving his community and advocating for rural issues. An elected regional district board director, Russell is also chair of the local credit union, president of the Association of Kootenay Boundary Local Governments, a member of the regional hospital district and sits on the Union of British Columbia Municipalities’ (UBCM) executive. In 2018, Russell stepped up as a leader when floods devastated Grand Forks, working tirelessly to find and create solutions for residents in need.
Russell is passionate about agriculture, food security and sustainable forestry and will be a tireless advocate for the Boundary-Similkameen’s robust farming economy. Russell has co-founded an agricultural society and two food co-operatives, sat on the board of Certified Organic Association of B.C., operated his own farm and completed a PhD in ecology.
Over the last few years, Russell has volunteered in rural British Columbia on behalf of the Federation of Canadian Municipalities, to share best practices with municipal leaders there. More recently, he led economic development planning, helping communities establish effective and accountable economic development programs while partnering with local business leaders.
When there’s time, Russell enjoys coaching kids’ soccer, cycling, hiking, paddling, photography and skiing in the backcountry and at our amazing Phoenix and Baldy mountains.
Russell has finished three marathons and the Penticton Ironman – a challenge he’ll perhaps attempt to repeat.
Russell will be a strong champion for rural B.C. and will work hard to build a robust rural economy that can provide the services rural residents rely on. He cares about public education, a strong rural economy, health care and the environment. He is committed to advocating for policies that make life better and more affordable for people in the Boundary-Similkameen.
What are your reasons for running in this election?
To truly make a positive change for rural B.C., I need to work with other provincial leaders to change policies and pass legislation in Victoria. I have been convinced of the value of John Horgan’s work, and I want to be a part of the team that moves B.C. forward. I want to ensure rural B.C. has a strong voice in Victoria, as our needs are often different than the needs of urban regions.
What do you believe to be the three most important issues for the riding?
I don’t believe rural B.C. can afford the luxury of a single-issue candidate. An effective MLA has to champion all our issues, including primary care and public education, economic development and environmental stewardship, elder care and forestry, disaster management and climate change.
If I had to choose three key issues for our communities, number one would be forest stewardship and watershed management. Sustainable development is vital for both the Interior economy and the preservation of clean waterways and fisheries, including the Okanagan River’s sockeye salmon run.
Second is support for regional agriculture and robust food-security networks, including the important soft-fruit and wine industry in the Okanagan. Fruit farmers in particular need a government that listens to their concerns and provides support where needed. My third issue is fostering a robust local economy in rural B.C. by supporting small and medium-size businesses as they recover amid the pandemic.
What works have you done for the community prior to deciding to run for election?
I’ve been a community leader in Grand Forks for over 10 years. Most of my time is spent as regional district director, chair of the local credit union and representing local governments as president of the Association of Kootenay-Boundary Local Governments and as vice-chair of resolutions for the UBCM.
Helping lead my community’s response to the devastating 2018 Boundary floods was one of the most challenging things I’ve ever done.
I helped design a community-led model of disaster recovery and I have since advised the province on rewriting our provincial disaster response and recovery framework. We’ll need those skills at the table to ensure rural B.C. gets proper attention for building back better, both economically and socially.
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