Pubdate: Tue, 15 Mar 2005
Source: Ladysmith-Chemanius Chronicle (CN BC)
Copyright: 2005 BC Newspaper Group & New Media
Author: Edward Hill
Bookmark: (Hemp - Outside U.S.)


Is there a better reason to enter politics than to exact revenge?

Last week, Duncan hemp industrialist Brian Johnson announced his candidacy 
for the Cowichan-Ladysmith riding on the Democratic Reform BC slate. The 
Liberal government, Johnson maintains, cancelled his hemp investment 
venture capital corporation in 2003, despite publicly endorsing his ideas.

"The reason I am running is the government did a flip flop. They say they 
support industrial hemp mills but then stabbed me in the back," Johnson 
said. "This government isn't even close to 'liberal' and is not a friend to 
small business."

Johnson's plan and the basis of his political platform is to build at least 
10 hemp mills throughout the Cowichan Valley, and more along the length of 
the Island. He calls it moving to a carbohydrate economy, as opposed to the 
oil-based hydrocarbon economy.

Hemp plants, often erroneously linked to marijuana, can be converted to 
dozens of products, including paper, fuel, food, beer and textiles. But 
Johnson plans to go further, using bio-waste such as wood chips and grass 
clippings to create ethanol fuel mills.

The mills themselves would be small, using five to 10 acres and would 
employ European "closed loop" technology to eliminate pollution. Other 
provinces, such as Alberta and Saskatchewan have hemp mills, he said, while 
B.C. has zero.

"I've been lobbying 10 years for this in the Valley," he said. "We are too 
reliant on big mills and world markets. We can create good jobs and become 
an exporter of value added products."

Democratic Reform BC is a relatively obscure party, consisting of 
disaffected ex-Liberals and ex-Reformers. It paints itself as a centrist 
option, at the same time as the Liberals and the NDP are scrambling to land 
in the middle ground. DRBC managed to get one seat in the Legislature after 
Surrey MLA Elayne Brenzinger defected from the Liberals in 2004.

Johnson admits his political platform is a bit of a one-trick pony, but 
argued none of the other parties have practical solutions to bolster the 
economy, to create jobs while helping the environment.

"This platform solves most of Cowichan's problems. If we create jobs, 
governments get more taxes," he said.

Political campaign or not, Johnson is pressing ahead to get Agricultural 
Reserve land in North Cowichan after plans to build in Lake Cowichan fell 
through. If he unseats Graham Bruce and gets into office, Johnson would be 
in a conflict of interest, considering his personal finances are linked to 
his economic development strategy. His interest would go into a blind 
trust, he said.

"We want the mills to be owned by locals and small enough to be built on a 
communal basis," he said. "The Liberals are robbing the Island of its 
wealth. It's time for a change."
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MAP posted-by: Beth