Gold medal-winning snowboarder to run for Liberals in next election in Okanagan-Coquihalla
By BILL TIELEMAN, 24 HOURS
Bill Tieleman and Ross Rebagliati - Joyce Thayer photo
In an interview Thursday with 24 hours, Rebagliati admitted he has a tough uphill climb against Day, the Minister of International Trade who won 58% of the Okanagan-Coquihalla vote in the October 2008 election.
“I’m used to lofty climbs,” said Rebagliati, who won gold in Nagano, Japan in 1998. “I don’t really feel I’m running against Stockwell Day as much as I’m running for the riding – to give voters an option.”
Rebagliati, 38, said he will use social media to connect with young people who don’t vote to defeat Day, 59, a former Canadian Alliance leader.
After Rebagliati’s Monday nomination – there are no other candidates – expect a classic sports battle – world champion snowboarder versus Sea-Doo riding politician – Day once rode the personal watercraft in a wetsuit to a news conference, gaining huge publicity but pundit disdain.
Rebagliati knows that despite his world-wide name recognition he faces a tough competitor. The 2008 Liberal candidate came in 4th, behind Day, the NDP and even the Green Party – and Day has won four elections in the riding.
For me, it’s tapping into my demographics – the 18 to 40 year-old range,” Rebagliati says. “Stockwell is able to win with very few of the potential voters and I want to get out non-voters with a massive web, Twitter, Facebook and social media campaign.”
Rebagliati said he isn’t worried that the Conservatives will attempt to target him over his Olympic win because he was briefly denied the gold medal after testing positive for traces of marijuana – which he blamed on second-hand smoke.
“I’m not concerned about it – it’s old news and I’ve deal with it for over a decade,” Rebagliati says.
Rebagliati will focus his campaign on key national issues like jobs, health care, the environment and homelessness, he said, but also on native concerns such as the Conservative cancellation of the Kelowna Accord developed by the Paul Martin Liberal government.
The world-famous snowboarder currently lives just outside the riding in Kelowna with his wife Alexandra and new son Ryan Enzo but says he is house hunting in Okanagan-Coquihalla.
Rebagliati has been involved in real estate, promotional work, construction and has a book on snowboarding titled “Off The Chain” coming out in November. He also works with a number of charities, including Big Brothers, the Make A Wish Foundation and Kids Help Phone.