Op­pal gets a kick out of $17.5-mil­lion soc­cer cen­tre

Vancouver Sun - - WESTCOAST NEWS - BY IAN AUSTIN

At­tor­ney-Gen­eral Wally Op­pal’s fight for his po­lit­i­cal life got a $17.5-mil­lion bailout Satur­day.

Op­pal, locked in a do-or-die bat­tle with In­de­pen­dent Vicki Hunt­ing­ton, smiled as Premier Gor­don Camp­bell promised, if elected, to build a state-ofthe-art Na­tional Soc­cer De­vel­op­ment Cen­tre in Delta.

Op­pal took one for the Lib­eral team when he gave up his safe Van­cou­verFraserv­iew seat for a run in Delta South, where Hunt­ing­ton has gal­va­nized com­mu­nity op­po­si­tion to con­tro­ver­sial projects such as new over­head trans­mis­sion lines.

At the en­trance to Satur­day’s an­nounce­ment, 15 pro­test­ers and 11 strik­ing paramedics were ev­i­dence that all is not well in Delta for Camp­bell’s Lib­eral ma­chine.

“Wally Op­pal doesn’t have a hope-ful in this rid­ing,” rhymed pro­tester Cliff Hoff­man, 58, who just lost his job as a ship­builder. “They promised us no power lines in 2005. Then they turned around and gave them to us.”

Trans­porta­tion plan­ner Eric Do­herty was quite a sight in a di­nosaur out­fit wear­ing a sign, “Gate­way to Ex­tinc­tion,” a ref­er­ence to the South Fraser Perime­ter Road, an­other Lib­eral project that’s raised hack­les lo­cally.

“I’m here be­cause the Gate­way high­way ex­pan­sion is greatly in­creas­ing green­house gases,” said Do­herty.

“It’s tak­ing us on the road to ex­tinc­tion.”

Af­ter Camp­bell, flanked by nine White­caps play­ers and half a dozen Lib­eral candidates, an­nounced the $17.5-mil­lion soc­cer fields and train­ing cen­tre, Op­pal con­ceded he’s in a tough fight.

“It is close,” said Op­pal. “We’ve got a lot of peo­ple sup­port­ing us. “I’m very hope­ful.” Op­pal said he doesn’t have any sec­ond thoughts about giv­ing up his rel­a­tively safe Van­cou­ver seat.

“Not at all — I live here, my kids go to school here, I coach bas­ket­ball here,” said Op­pal, one of the most out­spo­ken of Camp­bell’s cab­i­net team. “I don’t have any re­grets at all.” Delta Mayor Lois Jack­son, a po­lit­i­cal vet­eran, said the Delta South race is too close to call.

“My dear, I don’t know,” said Jack­son. “It de­pends on the day and what hap­pens.”

Delta North NDP MLA Guy Gentner said the Lib­er­als were an­nounc­ing a project that hasn’t been signed or sealed just to score some badly needed po­lit­i­cal points.

“It’s cheap pol­i­tics,” he said. “There are loose ends — there is no deal.”

Gentner, a for­mer Delta coun­cil­lor, said lo­cal politi­cians didn’t know the an­nounce­ment was com­ing.

“Many of the coun­cil­lors are shocked,” he said. “The devil’s in the de­tails.

“I think Gor­don Camp­bell and Wally Op­pal should get red-carded and be thrown out of the soc­cer game.”

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