Convictions scuttle campaign
One Penticton mayoral candidate has said he will cease attempts to campaign as revelations of criminal actions in his past have come to light.
Jukka Laurio, 53, said he was content with getting his initial message out to Penticton voters after being reminded of a 2004 conviction for trafficking a controlled substance and possession for the purpose of trafficking from Kelowna. For the two counts, he was sentenced to one day in jail and 10 months of probation.
“I’m going to crash and burn on this,” he said. “The campaign, that’s our time to actually make statements and get some attention … and the best way is to run the campaign and get the ideas out there for the people themselves. I have accomplished that.”
He explained the conviction was part of his personal beliefs with respect to the criminalization of marijuana.
“That comes down to the marijuana issue as a whole. That is a tough one, and I do support the decriminalization of marijuana,” Laurio said, adding that he had told the court he had been acting independently on federal recommendations that found merit in decriminalizing the substance. “The whole drug issue itself is a moral question. I can’t really support a system of laws that allows and promotes a drug that is already known to be highly addictive and dangerous, a factor in 90 per cent of violent crimes, causes carnage on the highways and costs billions of dollars of damage. I’m talking about alcohol.
“Simultaneously, it criminalizes another drug which has virtually no negative statistics to it and has medical benefits and factors to it. It’s not so much a matter of the marijuana, it’s the approach to the drug itself. It just seems like we chose the wrong drug to make legal.”
He recognized, however, that Penticton voters tend to make conservative choices in their political representatives.
“It’s a personal, moral and legal issue. It’s not a civic issue. It’s a federal and provincial issue. All the same, it’s all lumped into one category,” he said. “I can’t proceed. I got a message out there, that’s what I wanted to do, get that much and I’m happy with that.”
Laurio also confirmed he spent four years in federal prison for a sexual offence dating back 15 years. He would not comment on the conviction.
Much discussion emerged in the City of Penticton after Benny Wolfe declared his intentions to run for mayor despite facing charges of procuring a juvenile prostitute. While many wondered whether individuals accused of a crime or convicted of offences could hold public office, there is no restrictions in the Community Charter that bar candidates from having criminal records. Wolfe never officially filed papers to run for office.
The Western News accessed court registry records online and searched the names of each mayoral candidate. Nothing emerged for incumbent Mayor Dan Ashton and challengers Julius Bloomfield, Katie Robinson and Vic Powell.
Laurio may not want to finish the campaign, but his name will remain as a choice on the ballot. The deadline for candidates to remove their names from contention (Oct. 21) has already passed.
“If I remain, I remain, but I don’t think there’s any point in campaigning,” Laurio said of his name on the ballot. “I just don’t want to debate these issues in public. There is my side, but I’m not going to bother with that.”