The ski hills at Sun Peaks and the halls of the red chamber in Ottawa might seem like quite the distance from a coastal lighthouse.
But, the towers that provide a beacon for ships at sea are exactly top of mind for this area’s most famous athlete and current senator, Nancy Greene Raine.
When she’s not outdoors taking advantage of one of the best ski seasons in years, the Sun Peaks resident is busy preparing to brief the Senate on a report about de-staffing lighthouses on Canada’s coasts.
The senator visited three lighthouses last summer and is convinced, in many cases, the structures need to be occupied by a person.
It’s an issue she probably never gave much thought to as she traversed the various slopes around the world as one of the country’s most celebrated gold medallists.
But, politics and the politics of lighthouses are all part of Greene Raine’s current life.
It’s been more than two years since she was appointed to the Senate by Prime Minister Stephen Harper.
It has, she said, given her just enough time to get focused and learn the ropes of the job.
Green Raine sits on the Senate Standing Committee on Aboriginal Peoples and on another committee with Fisheries and Oceans Canada, the latter on which she participated in the lighthouse de-staffing report.
At the time of her appointment, Greene Raine said she favoured Senate reform.
Two years later, she still wants reform, but has slightly softened her view on the red chamber.
Instead of voting for senators the way Canadians choose their members of Parliament, Greene Raine likes the Alberta approach, in which the provincial government picks a handful of possible candidates — or senators-in-waiting — who are then chosen by the prime minister.
“That’s not a bad way of doing it,” she said.
However, Greene Raine is still in favour of limiting term lengths of senators to eight or 10 years.
Senators now can serve until they turn 75.
“I think you can stay too long,” she said, noting she would likely stay in her position for another six years.
Often maligned in the public, the unelected body is routinely criticized for being unnecessary and expensive for taxpayers.
The image of the Senate wasn’t helped by the likes of Liberal senator Andrew Thompson, who famously had a woeful attendance record and was living in Mexico during his time in the chamber in the 1990s.
However, Greene Raine defended the institution, suggesting cases like Thompson are the exception and not the rule.
“Generally speaking, the senators I’ve met take their job very seriously,” she said.
The local senator is also keeping a close eye on the lower chamber.
There has been plenty of chatter that Canadians will be heading to the polls for a federal election, but Greene Raine isn’t so sure.
“I don’t think there will be an election,” she said, noting most polls show an election would likely lead to same minority-government situation in Ottawa.
“I don’t think people are in the mind to do that.”
She said most voters want the government to focus on repairing the economy, something she still feels is “fragile.”
But, it’s not all about politics for Greene Raine.
She still spends plenty of times on the slopes — and she’s hoping to use her status to draw some attention to the sport that led to her being named Canada’s Female Athlete of the 20th century.
Greene Raine is concerned the sport may be getting too expensive for families to get into, while private ski hills are being taken for granted by municipalities that are close by.
“If we leave it totally up to the private sector to develop skiers, a lot of kids just won’t have a chance to get into it,” she said.
Greene Raine said that isn’t the case locally, as Sun Peaks and Harper Mountain have a desire to be available to the entire community.
However, she said, that’s not always the case in other communities in Canada.
Greene Raine noted a recent deal being offered by Sun Peaks in March for kids that provides a lesson, lift ticket and equipment rentals for three session for $150.
“It’s a really good opportunity for families to introduce their kids to skiing,” she said.
Story Jeremy Deutsch/Courtesy of Kamloops This Week