For George Petel, home has always been in the Kamloops-Thompson-Cariboo – and he hopes to represent the people of this riding as the Liberal candidate in the next federal election.
Petel, 50, was born in Kamloops and spent his childhood on the Bonaparte First Nation’s reserve, as well as Cache Creek, Ashcroft and Kamloops. He’s proud of both his Caucasian and Secwepemc heritage and said it has made him a stronger negotiator and lawyer.
“I just, there’s this smell in the air when you go back home. It’s the sage, the cedar, the water, everything. I just had this feeling I had to come back home. It’s funny that as you get older that you recognize it’s nice to be home.”
Petel, who runs Petel Law and was also CEO of the Kamloops Indian Band, said he decided to throw his hat in the ring for the federal seat after long-term MP Cathy McLeod said she will not seek re-election. A self-proclaimed “fiscal conservative” with economic and pro-business views, Petel said “I really truly believe from a market economy standpoint you have to be smart, you can’t throw money around and spend foolishly. You have to treat (the budget) like it’s your own purse and (the country) as your own family.”
However, he decided to run for the Liberal seat as his core values don’t line up with the federal Conservative Party. With four sisters and two daughters, Petel doesn’t feel it’s right to tell women what to do or not do with their bodies. He also values equality and treating people as you would want to be treated, regardless of sexual orientation or race.
An MP should strive to be the voice for the entire riding, he said. With the Kamloops-Thompson-Cariboo riding so diverse, Petel said talking to people from communities outside Kamloops is all the more important.
“I think our riding is unique and I got to make sure I get out and visit everybody in the different areas. To truly understand what people are experiencing I have to sit there and listen.”
Petel, who said he learned the value of hard work in the Alberta oil patch and the construction industry before going to law school, spent several years working for various corporations in Calgary. He also got the chance to visit Turkey, China and Kenya for work before returning to Kamloops with his wife and two teenage daughters.
Ensuring the region has a strong vibrant economy is central to many concerns people have in the riding, Petel said. If elected, he pledged to do his best to make the federal government invest in the industries and infrastructure the region needs. Petel said he’d also push for the installation of high-speed internet across the area so that rural communities have the same level of access as urban centres.
“If I get to Ottawa, I’m not just going to sit back and politely take everything that is forced upon me by the party. I speak my mind with respect and dignity and make sure my voice is heard.”