Based on the numbers, the B.C. Conservatives appear to be making progress in the Central Okanagan.
About eighty people, mainly seniors, turned out for a town hall meeting with party leader John Cummins in Kelowna Wednesday night, many more than the “few guys” Cummins said showed up when he held a similar meeting here last year.
And according to the party’s regional director for the Okanagan, Jim Sutherland, the turnout this week is an example of the growing popularity of the party here.
“The number of memberships has grown a lot,” said Sutherland prior to Cummins taking to the microphone.
He said going into the meeting, the Kelowna-Lake Country Conservative constituency association had 192 signed up members, just eight short of the number it needs to hold a nomination meeting to select a candidate for the next provincial election. He said given the line-up outside the meeting by people wanting to take out memberships, he expected that by end of the evening there would be well over the 200 needed.
Graeme James, the former Kelowna city councillor, who has announced he will seek the B.C. Conservatives nomination in Kelowna-Lake Country, said he has been selling a lot of memberships as he tries to shore up support for his nomination run.
Meanwhile, in Kelowna-Mission, it’s a different story.
Local businessman Mike McLoughlin, who announced earlier this week he will seek the party’s nomination in that riding, said it’s Conservative constituency association is nowhere near the required 200 number. But he said he plans to be out selling memberships as he tries to drum up support for his campaign.
Cummins, who during his remarks called the governing Liberals a “discredited bunch,” said he believes there is no way that Premier Christy Clark’s party can win the next election so accusations of vote-splitting on the right are unfounded.
As he said earlier in the day in an interview with the Capital News, he believes that when the next provincial election rolls around next May, it will be between the Conservatives and the NDP.
He blasted the Liberals for their spending, lack of support for small business, “lack of vision” for the province and for, in his words, selling off the assets of the province through run-of-river private hydro-electic projects.
“It’s crony capitalism,” he said.
His message, resonated with many in the audience, some of whom said they had already made up their minds to vote B.C. Conservative in the next election.
“I’m getting more impressed with him all the time,” said Fred Price, who attended the meeting with his wife Stella. She too said she was impressed with Cummins and said she will vote B.C. Conservative next May.
Irv Taylor, who called himself a “free-enterprise person,” said he liked what he heard from Cummins at the meeting and was even considering “throwing his resources” behind it.
Sean Upshaw, who ran in the last federal election as an “independent” Conservative after failing to win the Conservative Party nomination in Okanagan-Coquihalla, attended the meeting and said he too liked what he heard.
He said the emergence of B.C. Conservatives in the next provincial election will give voters the choice they thought they had when they elected three Liberal MLAs here, Norm Letnick (Kelowna-Lake Country), Steve Thomson (Kelowna-Mission) and Ben Stewart (Westside-Kelowna).
“At the end of the day, this is a conservative area,” said Upshaw, who finished second last in the a field of six candidates in the 2011 federal election with 860 votes.