MP Richard Cannings was in Osoyoos this morning for breakfast.
That in itself was not unusual; how he got to breakfast was: The MP showed up on his bike.
Mr. Cannings pulled into Osoyoos Monday afternoon, nearing the end of a week-long tour of the South Okanagan-West Kootenay riding that began August 24 in Nakusp.
Over the last seven days, the 62-year-old MP has travelled more than 340 km and visited most communities within the riding.
“I originally thought of the idea during the election campaign,” he said during a lunch stop in Rock Creek Monday. “But it was shot down by my campaign manager because it would take up too much time. Looking back on that long two-month campaign, though, I think we could still have done it.”
The cycling tour of the riding was a niggling thought through months of “sitting in Ottawa on my rear end and not getting on my bike,” and Mr. Cannings decided to spend some time this summer on the road.
“I was always trying to think of a way to get out on my bike. I thought this was a good way I could see the riding, I could meet people on the way and have the regular meetings I have and see some of the smaller communities that I often just drive through.”
His staff put together an itinerary that has taken their MP from Nakusp through to Castlegar and Trail and from there to Grand Forks, Midway and finally to Osoyoos.
“It’s just been a whole lot of fun,” he said. “My support team is my wife, who’s in a car. She gets out on a bike now and then, coming along trails and meeting us, cycling back. She’s been a great help, carrying my suitcases in the car.”
Although averaging about 75 km a day, Mr. Cannings said the pace has allowed him to spend considerable time chatting with other riders.
“When I’m cycling, I hear a lot about the trail and how important it is to local communities, especially places like Rock Creek, Midway, Greenwood and Slocan,” he said.
“These trails are important economic drivers for these communities. One thing I’ve found as I cycle is it’s in a variety of conditions. There are some really awful parts and then there are some beautiful, glourious trails. People come from Europe to see it and some of them go back dissatisfied because they expected more.
“Trails (in Europe) and trails in the United States are kept in better condition.”
It’s a realization he plans to take back to Ottawa with him, with the hope of working more closely with local government and tourism organizations to improve the trail presentation in the riding.
“Each community — non-motorized and motorized — has its needs. But when it comes down to it, there’s only one trail that’s suitable for bike touring and that’s these rail trails.”
Other issues for trail discussion include marijuana legalization, electoral reform, and climate change action.
“People are still concerned about Bill C-51. They’re concerned about changing some of the federal legislation that the Harper government brought in and the Liberal government promised to repeal.
“We’ve had some good long conversations on the bikes.”
He also sees his journey as a way to showcase physical activity.
“People are agog when I tell them I’m cycling 75 km a day. But it’s not hard to do; you can do it by lunchtime,” he said.
“The last couple of days I’ve been riding with people who are all over 70 and they’re setting the pace. I’m struggling to keep up.”
Mr. Cannings plans to travel through Oliver this morning and make Penticton by late afternoon, where he’ll be hosting a barbecue.
His cycling will include a ride along the Canal Trail from Road 22. He plans to have coffee at Medici’s around 10:30 and lunch at the Okanagan Falls Hotel at 1 p.m.
Arrival at Skaha Lake Park in Penticton is scheduled for between 5 and 6 p.m.