As a licensed residential contractor, Bob O’Brien is well aware of the affordable housing crisis throughout the region and beyond.
It’s one of the major issues that has prompted the longtime businessman to join the race in the Kamloops-Thompson-Cariboo riding as an independent candidate.
O’Brien said the housing crisis can be broken down into four categories: the homeless population in need of shelters, low-income residents who can barely afford rent, seniors who require affordable housing and a “new” category that is also in need of attention.
“That would be the people who can afford to pay $1,500 in rent but can’t put together a down payment,” O’Brien explained. “We need to deal with it now because if we don’t, these people will never own a home.”
It has been a few years since O’Brien, a Kamloops resident, first considered running for office, but only recently that he decided that an independent campaign would be the best fit.
When researching the various parties and their platforms, O’Brien said the Conservatives were “on the right track” but when he approached the party about running, he realized it wasn’t the right fit.
“What I got out of multiple conversations was, ‘we want you to run, but we don’t want you to have any ideas,’” O’Brien said.
It’s an approach that wouldn’t work for the region, O’Brien said, in a system where 199 out of the 338 federal ridings are in Ontario and Quebec.
“The policies are rooted in those two provinces, and the rest of the country is an afterthought,” he said. “We get what those two provinces want.”
In addition to affordable housing, O’Brien lists climate change as one of his major priority issues, which he said ties into other aspects of his platform including wildfire management, government spending, foreign aid and immigration.
He said there are ways to address these issues without the country having to spend more money. He adds he has been enjoying getting out into the communities throughout the riding to discuss potential solutions.
“I’m happy to be getting out there and chatting with people, trying to understand what their concerns are,” he said.
“It’s more listening than talking, actually.”