A young Vancouver Island athlete is challenging Canada’s prime minister to a race.
Mackenzie Loyer, 16, has issued a challenge to Prime Minister Justin Trudeau to run in the annual Port Alberni Paper Chase, scheduled for March 8 at Cherry Creek Community Hall.
Loyer first came up with the idea after seeing Tofino listed as one of the 20 best places in the world to visit by CNN.
“I know [Justin Trudeau] always goes to Tofino with his family,” said Loyer. “In order for him to get there, he has to go to Port Alberni. It would be cool to see him stopping along the way, helping out our community and bringing more awareness to Port Alberni.”
The Paper Chase is a 15-kilometre race, the fifth race in the Vancouver Island Race Series and “not too bad” in terms of difficulty, says Loyer.
This will be Loyer’s third year competing in the race series. Last year, at age 15, she won first overall in the 16-19 year age category. Loyer, who is currently in Grade 11 at Alberni District Secondary School, also runs with the ADSS track and field club.
Loyer started running in 2016. Her very first race was the No. 7 Challenge, where participants run against Port Alberni’s steam train and end up at McLean Mill National Historic Site. At 12 years old, she won the 23 and under division.
“[Running] can be very challenging,” said Loyer. “But being able to push through the pain, and knowing I can do anything—that translates to all aspects of my life. I can push through the tough times and get to the better times.”
But her competitive nature is not the only thing driving Loyer to issue a challenge to Canada’s prime minister. She also cares deeply about Port Alberni, and feels that the town is often ignored.
“I really think we need to start promoting Port Alberni,” said Loyer. “Port Alberni’s in the shadows. It’s a great town. The trails are beautiful, the lakes are beautiful. It’s just beautiful scenery here. We really need growth to get better as a community.”
One person who has encouraged Loyer in her racing career is Courtenay-Alberni NDP MP Gord Johns. Loyer first met Johns when she was volunteering with the Triconic Challenge back in 2017.
“It was my first time meeting a real politician,” Loyer explained. “I’ve come to respect him not only as a politician, but as a friend who encourages me at the races I attend and cheers me on. He just really wants to bring change to Port Alberni.”
Alana Brown, Loyer’s mother, said that Johns reached out to the family with a phone call after hearing about the challenge.
“He said he wouldn’t be able to attend, but he called her to wish her the best,” said Brown. “He’s such a big support for her.”
Loyer has not yet heard back from Trudeau or his office, but she’s hoping the prime minister will take up the challenge.
Port Alberni made national news last summer when a pair of young men from the small Vancouver Island city were involved in a Canada-wide manhunt. Loyer is hoping to change Port Alberni’s reputation.
“Port Alberni received some bad press last summer,” said Loyer. “I would like the people of Canada to know that we are a community that cares about each other.”