It’s not unprecedented.
The list of actors or musicians turned politicians is not exhaustive, but it exists.
American actor Ronald Regan became that country’s 40th president. Pro wrestler Jesse ‘The Body’ Ventura became mayor of Minnesota and then governor of Minnesota. Hollywood actor/director Clint Eastwood became mayor of Carmel-by-the-Sea, Calif. And Sonny Bono had a career as musician alongside then-wife Cher before being elected mayor of Palm Springs, Calif.
So it’s not such a leap that multi-award winning country music star George Canyon is entering politics.
The Pictou County-raised singer has just thrown his hat in the political ring as Roger MacKay’s Central Nova Conservative Party replacement in the 2019 federal election.
It was a surprise move, at least for county residents as well as the Central Nova Conservative Association, announced just hours after MacKay announced via social media that he was withdrawing from the race due to “personal reasons.”
In an interview with the star on Wednesday, Canyon said he had been talking to his family about the race for a couple of days.
“Jen and I and the kids had to make the decision; it was such a big decision to make as a family and without their support it was a no-go for me,” said Canyon who has always promoted family-first.
“I’ve always wanted to serve this way.”
Canyon’s life and career have been built around his desire to serve, in some way. As a child he wanted to have a career in the Air Force so he joined 374 F/L Chisholm Air Cadet Squadron in Stellarton; his dream was crushed at age 14 when he found he had Type 1 diabetes. “But I never gave up on serving.”
He was a volunteer fire fighter in Eureka, a peace officer for three and a half years, 14 Wing Greenwood honorary colonel for four years — three and a half of them as colonel commandant.
“It all just kind of made sense. Peter MacKay — who everyone knows is like my brother — has been my mentor when it comes to the political world. We’ve had literally days of conversations about it (Canyon serving in a political sense) over the years — quite a few when we were in Afghanistan together. Peter called and said I needed to consider this because it’s time. He told me the ultimate way to serve was to serve in government, to represent the people of your riding.”
Canyon said he feels it’s his time to enter the political ring.
“Four years ago when I talked about it I knew I needed to serve, I just didn’t know if it was the right time. I never dreamt in a million years that I could ever possibly represent the people of Pictou County and Central Nova.”
Canyon grew up in Fox Brook but has lived the last number of years on a ranch in Calgary with his wife and two children. They plan to move back here, Canyon said. “In my heart, I’ve never really left. So we’re looking for a place.”
He would not be the first candidate to parachute in to a riding in which he did not live. Brian Mulroney represented this riding after then-MP Elmer MacKay stepped aside in 1983 to allow the newly elected PC leader to enter Parliament through a by-election here which was then considered a safe Tory seat.
“Eisenhower put it best in an old quote I read one day when he said everybody should be a part-time politician because if you care about where your country’s going and your freedoms and your rights we all need to be vested to a degree.”
Canyon said that’s something he took to heart and it’s why he’s a member of the Conservative Party. “Conservatives have always had the core belief. And I love the fact that Andrew Scheer’s platform is family first. To me, my family and faith are first so I could not deny it when I was asked if I would step up. The timing could not be more perfect.”
Canyon said he is fully committed to being in Central Nova and canvassing door to door. “People know I’d talk the head off a dead mule at 50 paces,” he laughs. “I love talking to people. To me, that has always been an essential part of being from Pictou County. And it’s important for me to do that because I need to hear what people’s concerns are.”
In the brief time he has been the official Conservative candidate, Canyon said he has heard from a lot of people whose primary concern is taxes.
“I talked to a woman this morning who was concerned that two-thirds of the middle class of Canadians are paying such high taxes.” Retired Canadians trying to enjoy grandkids are struggling because “everything is being taxed. The first thing for me will always be family first. If you can’t afford to put your kids in an extra-curricular activity — like hockey — because at the end of the month you barely have $200 left over, we have a major malfunction at the junction.”
Canyon has a busy tour schedule, but vows that he will be able to finish his tour and work as the Central Nova MP as well.
“My father and grandfather always taught me to be a man of your word and that your handshake better be your bond, and I have stood by that since I was a little kid. So I will meet all of my contractual obligations and I expect I will be on a lot of red eyes to be back here a lot. But I only tour from Sept. 5 to 21 and then I will be here. I’ll be here for more than a month before the election.”
He said the Conservative Party wants him to continue to be George Canyon because his fan base stretches all across the country and he has a platform to reach all Canadians. He said if he is elected, “I will still perform, but not on that schedule. It has to fit in and it has to make perfect sense. But my utmost priority will be representing the people of Central Nova and the people of Pictou County.”
Regarding political experience, Canyon noted that he has been active politically in Alberta and attended a lot of events with Peter MacKay which he said were “vital” to his own political ambition. “To me, being a politician is representing the people that put me there, with my voice but representing their voice. I will always make myself available to be heard.”
Canyon has had a successful almost-30 year career in the music business and is ready for the challenge.
“My reasons for stepping up and serving in this way are the right reasons. And I am just so proud to have the opportunity.”
Canyon joins the Central Nova race with fellow candidates Sean Fraser for the Liberals, Barry Randle for the Green Party, Betsy MacDonald for the NDP and People’s Party of Canada candidate Allister Muir. The 2019 federal election is Oct. 21.