Conservative Party leader John Cummins is getting plenty of help from family in his efforts to win the Langley riding on May 14.

Conservative Party leader John Cummins is getting plenty of help from family in his efforts to win the Langley riding on May 14.

The challenge of campaigning both locally and provincially

John Cummins working to balance roles of Conservative leader and local hopeful

On the day of his interview and photo session with The Times, John Cummins looks remarkably rested for a man whose rural Langley home was being used for a weekend of all-night shooting for a zombie movie.

He managed to sleep through it all, he says.

A few days afterwards, a rusty beater of a car remains parked next to the  horse barn down the hill from his house and a graveyard set is still tucked against a fence.

It’s the work of his son, a successful actor who has become a writer-director, and the production was very much a family affair, with one of his grandsons playing a zombie and the family RV serving as a dressing room, while the multi-vehicle garage was used for makeup.

The Cummins campaign for the Langley riding and the associated fight for B.C. seats as Conservative party leader is also a family affair, with his grown-up daughters and his wife handling co-ordinator, financial agent and other tasks.

“We all kind of pitch in,” Cummins says, settling into a comfortable chair around the corner from the spacious main floor kitchen/dining/living room area of the house his wife designed.

The couple moved here around the time Cummins ended a lengthy career as a federal member of parliament for Delta-Richmond East.

He has an office on the main floor of his home with several souvenirs of that time, beginning with his first win in 1993 as a Reform Party candidate, then, when the party changed its name, winning again as a   Canadian Alliance member, then several more times for the same party under yet another name, the Conservatives.

During that time, he forged a reputation as an often-outspoken maverick who was not afraid to openly disagree with his leaders.

Now, as leader of the BC Conservative party, Cummins has become the person who imposes discipline, not the one who defies it.

That role has been filled by John van Dongen, who quit the Liberals to join the Conservatives, then quit the Conservatives to sit as an independent.

It was part of a rebellion by dissidents which ended with them expelled and Cummins still in charge.

That is just one of the differences between running a local campaign and overseeing a party.

Cummins says he has to constantly balance the requirements of running a provincial battle with his own local campaign.

“I can’t do the kind of door-knocking you like to do,” Cummins says.

Langley is familiar territory for Cummins, who used to teach school here before he moved to Delta.

He has also worked as a commercial fisherman, and been employed in the oil and gas and pulp and paper industries.

The battle for the Langley riding will be waged on transportation and education-related issues, Cummins says, starting with tolls.

Langley residents are understandably unhappy with paying to drive across the Fraser river, Cummins says.

“They look at the Sea-to-Sky freeway and say, why can I go skiing and I don’t have to pay a toll?”

His solution is a tax credit.

“At this point, it’s the best that we can do,” Cummins says.

“It gives some relief to frequent users.”

He also favours re-routing freight trains away from downtown Langley through industrial areas,

“The numbers [of trains] are only going to increase over time,” Cummins says.

“It doesn’t make for an attractive community.”

A more appropriate use of those tracks, he says, would be for public transit.

He also think tracks could run below grade through Fort Langley, using a cut-and-cover tunnel like some European communities do.

“That’s not a pie-in-the-sky idea.”

Cummins would also like to adjust the education system to make schools more responsive to parents and to reduce clashes between teachers and school district managers.

“Part of the problem is unionization of the teachers,”Cummins says.

“We’ve got to move past that.”

He also thinks TransLink badly needs an overhaul to make it more transparent and accountable.