To say John Kidder has led a varied life might be something of an understatement. A cowboy, a miner, a businessman and 30 years as a technology entrepreneur has given him a taste of several of the sectors that drive the B.C. economy.
But for the Liberal candidate, political awareness started at an early age, right at home.
“When I hear people say you can’t talk politics around the dinner table, I ask what is the point of siting down?” joked Kidder.
With a Tory father and a CCF-leaning mother who voted Liberal when she had to, Kidder and his sister Margot were exposed to the whole gamut of Canadian politics.
“It was every night, and you had to be up on it,” agreed Margot, who came up from Montana to campaign with John. Margot, who starred as Lois Lane in the Superman movies, was lending not only her celebrity, but also her record as a Democratic activist to her brother’s campaign.
“It’s not simply supporting my brother. I wouldn’t support him if I didn’t agree with what he was doing,” she said. “I am living in the United States with what would be the end result of Stephen Harper’s economic policies. It’s a catastrophe. Neighbours are losing their jobs and homes.”
Kidder said he and his sister have always been close, both in age and as companions as their family moved across the country through a series of mining towns.
“Our parents moved rapidly and often,” he said. “Margie and I, every time we went anywhere, we were the new kids. Our continuity came from being together; it made us extremely fast friends.”
Living in towns from the Yukon to Labrador gave Kidder a very different outlook on what being a Canadian meant.
Kidder, 63, described how being in so many schools and having a history teacher for a mother introduced him to the many and varied histories of Canada.
“You get a whole different sense of how the country was knit together,” he said.
After completing school, Kidder wandered for a bit, eventually ending up at the Gang Ranch, and later Douglas Ranch in B.C., where both his environmental and political awareness began to bloom.
“By an astonishing stroke of good fortune, I ended up being a working cowboy. I spent a few years on a saddle horse at Douglas Lake; it really connects your body to the earth,” he said. “You get to understand that the important cycles in the world are the cycles of the seasons. It is the water, the grass and the trees that really matter. That has informed my whole environmental outlook from that time on.”
That period also marks the first time Kidder cast a vote, riding 35 miles down from Douglas Lake to vote in support of the Trudeau Liberals.
“It literally got me out of the woods to vote,” he said.
Later, Kidder returned to the mining background of his childhood, working at Brenda Mines near Peachland as well as other interior mining towns like the copper mines at Logan Lake, before returning to university.
“I got really engaged in the study of managing ranch lands and wild resources,” he said. “I ended up managing a program for the government of B.C. called Co-ordinated Resource Management and Planning.”
Working on the program, an attempt to manage wild and working lands in an integrated fashion, also introduced him to small computers, sowing the seed of his career as an entrepreneur, getting in on the beginnings of the personal computer revolution.
About this time, Kidder also became directly involved in politics, working on the campaign of a former instructor, Peter Pearse, who was running for the Liberals.
“Peter had been an enormous influence on me in understanding the difficulties of environmental economics,” said Kidder, who stayed involved with the Liberals, but wasn’t ready to run for office himself.
“I thought of running for years, but my family circumstances never permitted it, with a wife and small kids at home,” he said.
The situation changed in 2009, when his wife died. With children grown, Kidder moved back to what he calls his “home turf,” the B.C. interior — settling in Ashcroft.
“This is where my heart lies,” said Kidder. “After a year of really trying to come to terms with the absence of my wife, I decided to take a look at what I was going to do with the rest of my life. “
It was time, Kidder decided, to make a run for office.
“For the first time, to ask people to vote for me. I have asked thousands to vote for other people … I have never actually stood up and said, ‘Will you please give your vote for me as your member of Parliament?’” he said. “It is a very humbling thing to do.”