WITH a background in social work and social research, Skeena NDP candidate Bruce Bidgood says he is driven by a desire to help people.
He says that aim has manifested itself in different ways, starting with a brief two-year stint studying clinical social work. His studies were then re-directed into research psychology and social research, which eventually led to his current posting as a university professor at the Terrace UNBC campus.
Now it’s morphed into what he hopes will be a political career.
As he runs to be the next MLA for the Skeena riding, Bidgood said one of his top priorities is to diversify the economy.
“You don’t put all your eggs in one basket,” said Bidgood. “You don’t just exclusively focus on LNG. LNG is an important part of our plan, but we build local jobs… You also try to recruit secondary industry, you try to have some resource extraction, manufacturing, and then you have some maybe high tech universities,” he said.
With that economic focus, Bidgood acknowledged that education and health are important.
“During these bad times, it has been education and health that has gotten Terrace through tough times,” he said.
His second priority is in line with the Northwest B.C. Resource Benefit Alliance, focused on securing a share of revenue for local governments from the major resource industry in this region.
“Right now, the north produces 70 per cent of the revenues for Victoria, and we only get six per cent back,” said Bidgood.
“We need a new economic arrangement with the province. We need our fair share.”
Talking about the alliance comes easily to Bidgood because he was in on the ground floor of its formation in 2014, going back to the days when he was the chair of the Kitimat-Stikine regional district, a position made possible by being a City of Terrace councillor.
According to the alliance website, the province has earned more than $500 million in revenue from major capital projects in the northwest over the past five years.
Yet while the northwest generates large revenues for the province, too little of that is sent back into the infrastruture here, where needs for items such as roads, bridges and local government water and sewer facilities are estimated to amount of $600 million.
B.C.’s peace region has a fair share agreement, noted Bidgood. With that agreement, the City of Fort St. John got close to $21 million in 2015 from the province for infrastructure.
Bidgood, 56, grew up in Port Colborne, Ontario, and spent more than 10 years in university studies of various fields before securing a doctorate in research and social policy at Wilfrid Laurier University.
Since then, Bidgood has worked as a social work professor for 20 years, and was involved at Wilfred Laurier in what was a newly founded centre for social welfare studies research.
His research has been well published, and he has consulted to and given into things such as social planning for Wellington county in Ontario and the social charter of rights which was part of the proposed Charlottetown Accord of 1992.
Bidgood says he brushed shoulders with government officials of all levels and through it all became more closely connected with the NDP.
At one point he considered running for the provincial wing of the NDP in Ontario but he had a young family at the time, and knew it was not the right fit for him.
“I just didn’t think it was possible to juggle raising small children [with having a full political career],” he said.
“So we talked it over and I said ‘well, we’ll put it off for a while.’”
He continued his work as researcher and professor and in 2005, after a difficult divorce, Bidgood, who has not remarried and who has two grown daughters, made his to Terrace where he’s been teaching social work at UNBC ever since.
“I’ve always had a passion for natural places, and hunting and fishing,” he said about why he chose to move here.
From his stint as a City of Terrace councillor from 2008 to 2014, Bidgood sat on the North West Regional Hospital District board and on the board of the North Central Local Government Association.
He passed up on the opportunity to run for council again in 2014 by deciding instead run as a Terrace mayoral candidate. He was defeated by Carol Leclerc.
Other local commitments include a position on the board of the Terrace and District Community Services Society.
Bidgood says he’d make a strong provincial MLA for the Skeena for three reasons.
“I bring experience [working with government], I bring a passion for the north, and lastly, I’m a tireless fighter for people who have not done well under our current economic arrangement,” Bidgood said.
“I won’t stop until we get a better arrangement for the Skeena riding.”