Not only is Leighton Baker standing as candidate for the Waimakariri electorate, but he’s also the Party Leader of the New Conservative party. Managing to squeeze some time around his national speaking tour, we spent some time with Leighton in Rangiora and asked him about his background, why he’s standing in this election and his hopes for Waimakariri in the future. Tell us a bit about your background: Born in Lower Hutt, Leighton has spent a lot of time living in different parts of New Zealand. He moved to Masterton, started schooling in Invercargill and then Rotorua, and started secondary schooling in Auckland. He started working in the Far North and then moved down to Canterbury about 28 years ago with his wife. Currently, Leighton is a builder and has been for around 33 years. He spent over six years as a trades tutor at Youth Development Opportunities Trust in Rangiora working with the young people of North Canterbury to develop a purpose and a plan for themselves – some of whom he still keeps in touch with today. Nowadays he owns his own small building company and is still working as a builder full-time while campaigning. What made you want to become an MP? Democracy and justice are the main reasons behind Leighton’s decision to get into politics. Leighton’s beliefs are grounded in the view that our politicians are servants of the people, employed by the people to represent the people. He draws attention to the fact that we have had citizen-initiated referendums since the 1990s, yet no government has ever honoured one. Seeing this as a blight on our democracy, Leighton holds fast in his belief that the people should choose, and the politicians are meant to be there to represent them. After talking about what motivated him to get into politics, Leighton talks about what led to him taking the role of Party Leader for the New Conservative Party as well as standing for the Waimakariri electorate. Following the departure of the previous leader, there was still a groundswell of members who believed in the policies and principles of the party and still wanted to keep it going. So at the following AGM Leighton was voted onto the Board and after a year without a leader they held an election which saw Leighton voted into the top position that he is in now. Democracy, and what is fair and just continues to be Leighton’s core motivation. He enjoys living in New Zealand and believes it is the best place in the world to live. He says us kiwis are a smart people who should be able to choose their own destiny. It’s true that the decisions we make today will affect the future, just as the decisions made 40 years ago are still impacting us now. Leighton sums this up simply, “So if we make good decisions, we get a good future. If we make poor decisions, we get a poor future.” How will Waimakariri benefit from having you in this role? Leighton has lived in Waimakariri for 28 years and is a dedicated member of the community. He’s operated his business from here, he’s employed people from here, and he’s worked with the youth of our community. Leighton believes this has helped him to develop a strong understanding of the community, it’s people and the issues that we face. Leighton also thinks about the future and a long term vision for Waimakariri, and asks the question, “who are we as a community and how do we plan for the future and have a long term goal that works for us?” So for Leighton it’s connectivity, its understanding the culture and people here, and having a vision for the future. What are some of the ‘big issues’ that you are most passionate about? Leighton’s mantra is that the government’s role is to protect, enable and encourage. They are there to keep us safe and encourage us to succeed; not control, micromanage or manipulate us. Therefore, his big promise is to give the authority back to the people to choose. As a party, New Conservative believes in democracy and binding referenda, having a smaller government, and for local communities to have more say in what happens in their area. Leighton knows that it’s the locals that know what they need, so central government telling locals what they need doesn’t really work. Local communities need more autonomy and trust to make decisions and determine what is best for them because each community’s needs are different. Talking on local issues, Leighton believes our big issues for Waimakariri are about connectivity and transport. We’ve got an aging population here so it’s about making our community safe and easy for them to get around to access what they need for their personal and social needs. Connectivity isn’t just transport, it’s also about our digital access and ensuring our aging population are being connected and less isolated while at home. Leighton also talks about creating the opportunity for our older generation to pass on their skills and knowledge to the younger people of our community, stating it’s key to “learn from others mistakes because you’ll never live long enough to make them all yourself.” What is your point of difference? What strengths do you possess that would make you the best person to spend our vote on? The point of difference for Leighton is that he is a small business owner himself who has hired people from here, had to do his own accounts, and balance his own books. As a business owner he has a real respect for money regarding not being able to spend it if it’s not coming in because he knows how hard it is to earn it. Leighton talks about not coming from a job where you get paid regardless of results, but only getting paid by results. As a tradesman, Leighton says he really understands serving people and believes this notion of serving the people who pay you has been lost in government. Leighton mentions how he’s different from the other candidates as far as their parties go. Leighton highlights that the New Conservative party is the “only party that values life” as they don’t agree with abortion or euthanasia; something that would be devastating for the elderly and those with disabilities in Waimakariri who will be most disadvantaged by it. Overall for Leighton, he’s got that understanding of how hard it is to earn money, to survive, and how hard it is for small businesses. For him his point of difference is life experience, living in the community, and the fact that he is accountable.