Federal Liberal candidate Brad Layton has focused his life first on being a dad, and second on being an agent to fight for change.
A single dad since a divorce in 1995, Layton says he spent more than 10 years focused on raising his daughter Brittany, now 22, and making ends meet.
“From the time she was two until she was about 11, I didn’t have time for anything except for going to work during the day and raising my beautiful daughter in the evenings and weekends,” said Layton.
“She spent so much time in daycare during the day, that weekends and every evening became her time,” he said last week during an interview.
“It’s a juggling act, being a single parent. You have work because you have to be able to put food on the table and buy clothes and pay your rent, but at the same time you have a young child that needs a parent around too.”
Layton says the balancing act changed as Brittany grew older and time opened up for outside activities.
“I’ve been politically minded since I was young, and not just politically, but environmentally,” he said.
“On the sidelines, if you’re not happy with the way things are going, you have no influence, but get involved and you have your chance to learn, and to influence and to teach.”
He was president in the mid-1990s of Share B.C., a controversial land use group in its day which lobbied to have forest land set aside for logging and other forest land preserved.
Layton was also president of the Share chapter in Smithers.
He has also taken part in resource management and land use discussions and organized a volunteer clean up day last year.
Layton is a registered forest technician with Pro-Tech Forest Resources in Smithers, and does mostly project management, he said.
Politically, he has been a volunteer for the B.C. Liberals in two provincial elections and also served as president of the B.C. Liberal riding association in the Bulkley Valley.
But many of Layton’s interests went on hold in August 2009 when he was diagnosed with kidney cancer.
Surgery and a period of recovery and Layton has now been cancer-free for six years.
On the local political level Layton ran unsuccessfully for Smithers council in 2008 but was elected to Telkwa council in 2011 and re-elected last year.
He says he was motivated by several factors: He wanted more recreation for local children, an objective he says is harder to accomplish than first thought. He also was seeking community safety through completing a wildfire protection plan and addressing highway traffic through Telkwa. Last, he wanted to understand and influence public spending and taxation.
“You can’t complain about taxes if you don’t know what it’s being spent on,” Layton said.
“Until you sit down and go through line by line of the budget, with all the money to run a village, you have no idea.”
“Unless you’ve been part of why a decision is made, you don’t always understand why they are making these decisions,” he said.
Layton also sits on the board of the Northwest Regional Hospital District through his position on Telkwa council and is on the board of the Omineca Beetle Action Coalition.
The latter calls for more cooperation in deciding on resource use policies.
His decision to seek federal office is to represent the northwest in how decisions are made.
“I understand that when you go to Ottawa, you are part of the government running the whole country, but at the same time, you are voted in by the people of your riding. They should be the voice you represent.”
“I am not happy with the representation we’ve had,” he said.
I’m running to make sure that our riding is represented. We don’t want big business or other parts of the country dictating fundamental things to us on our environment and economics here.”
Layton does support the development of a liquefied natural gas industry in the region but only if it meets strict environmental standards.
“If that means it costs more, that means it costs more. We’re a first world country with first world technologies. There is no excuse for not doing it the best possible way,” he said.
If fewer safety precautions saves millions in project cost and is the deciding factor in a project, “if it’s putting the environment in jeopardy, then it doesn’t get done,” he said.
As for the opposition to pipelines most recently expressed by the Wet’suwet’en and Unist’ot’en near Houston, Layton is calling for two-way communication.
“All stakeholders have to be consulted and all concerns of stakeholders need to be addressed,” he said, adding that it is the same way in business.
“Communication is a two-way street… we have to address the concerns and work through them,” he said.