Originally a transplant from Nova Scotia, the award-winning country artist currently resides in High River. Canyon made the surprise announcement last week, citing a desire to serve and give back after witnessing an outpouring of community spirit following the flooding which devastated parts of southern Alberta in June.
“For me, it’s more about representing the people. People have talked to me about politics almost my entire career — you should take a look at that someday, you’d be good at representing people,” said Canyon. “Last summer, when southern Alberta went through the flood, I couldn’t believe what I was witnessing — and I’ve been all over the world, and been a lot of places, and seen a lot of people. The selflessness that I saw, the volunteers — complete strangers — giving of themselves to that extent, it was really inspiring. My wife and I were right along with them, volunteering and watching it happen, and it really was a catalyst for me in coming to a decision.”
Currently still part of the Medicine Hat riding, Taber will officially become part of the new Bow River federal riding during the upcoming 2015 federal election, following a decision handed down by the Federal Electoral Boundaries Commission in June 2013. Rejecting the objections of numerous municipalities and two sitting MPs in southern Alberta, the commission’s decision — based on population considerations — was welcomed by few constituents.
Stretching north-south across the interior of the province and encompassing a vast tract of territory, the new Bow River constituency includes the M.D. of Taber, the counties of Vulcan, Newell, Wheatland and parts of the counties of Kneehill and Rocky View. At its furthest extent, the huge riding ranges from Three Hills in the north to Taber in the south, a distance of almost 300 kilometres.
The 43-year-old country music artist, who has sold more than 300,000 albums, has always had a desire to serve his country in some capacity.
“I wanted to be an air force pilot when I was a kid — mom and dad couldn’t figure out why,” said Canyon. “It wasn’t the flying of an airplane, it was the serving my country. I couldn’t do that, because I got type 1 diabetes at 14. So I decided maybe I’d like to be a doctor, and serve that way. I did my pre-med and was on my way to medical school — and then I went on the road with a country band. Since then, I’ve always felt an instinct to serve. When this came up, I decided it was time to step up and offer to serve as a representative of the people of the constituency.”
Based upon population levels, but intended to deliver an overall agricultural focus, the Bow River riding includes the major population centres of Strathmore, Brooks, Vulcan, Vauxhall, Bassano, and Chestermere. Taber, with a population of 8,104, is the third largest urban population centre in the riding.
Canyon is planning to get out into the riding for introductions with various municipal officials, and most importantly, the people of Bow River, as soon as possible.
“I won’t get into any of the issues, because I want a chance to meet with the people. I get to meet with the fans all the time. When I put a show on, no matter where it’s at, that’s what I do. I do hear some of the issues, but I really want to sit down — we’ll be doing this over the next couple of months — and talk with the councils, the mayors, the reeves, the councillors, and of course the people in the communities. I want to hear first hand where the concerns are, and where their hearts are. I’m as transparent as the day is long, people see what they get. I couldn’t be any less complicated. But I want to be able to wear their heart on my sleeve.”
With his sights set on becoming an MP, Canyon is confident he can bring his message to a wider population demographic by utilizing technology.
“Speaking as a Canadian, not a guy running for office, one thing I’ve always said is communication is a number one priority. I don’t care if you’ve got bad news for me — I’d love it if you had good news for me — but you need to communicate with me, I need to know what is going on. In the music business, my team, we have that relationship. That’s actually one thing I feel as a Canadian, is with today’s technology, there’s no reason why constituents of your party can’t constantly be provided with information. That’s one of the things for me, is opening close ties, and opening that door of communication all the time, and using technology to do so.”
People in the riding shouldn’t be surprised if they run across the country music star in the near future.
“We’re going to start (touring the riding) right away. I really don’t want to get taken off track as to why I’m doing this, which is to serve the people. So we’re going to get out, sooner rather than later, and make sure that is our main priority,” said Canyon.
Making sure constituents are confident about the kind of representative they send to Ottawa is the highest priority for Canyon as he looks toward a future as a potential elected representative.
“Certainly, I look to someone who I want representing me — and how I look at it is who is confident enough, is transparent enough, and is not going to have their own agenda, or their own ego, and is going to represent me and my family. When I tuck the kids in, and when our heads hit the pillow, I know I’m comfortable that my interests, my beliefs and my opinions are being represented in Ottawa, to all Canadians, by this person. I really feel that’s where I’m coming from, so that’s where my heart is, is to really represent the people, the constituents, the neighbours, and all my fans in southern Alberta.”
A Conservative Party nomination meeting for the new riding has yet to be set, with a voting date to be scheduled by the national party office.