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Many of the Okanagan-Coquihalla’s politically ambitious found themselves checking the weather forecasts for Ottawa at this time of year in the wake of MP Stockwell Day’s announcement last Saturday that he will not run in the next federal election, leaving behind a tantalizing base of voter support.
Among the candidacy’s suitors is Penticton councillor, businessman and former Conservative riding president Dan Albas, who announced Tuesday that he is seeking the nomination.
In a statement posted on pentictonpolitics.com, Albas said a number of citizens, supporters and friends have urged him to seek the nomination.
“After much thought and discussion with family and friends, I have decided that I would like to put my name forward,” stated Albas.
“While the role and responsibilities might change, my commitment to listen to people and take their concerns forward remains.
“I believe that people deserve public representatives who are accountable and will return phone calls and communicate regularly with the people they serve.”
Albas may be the first of many to put their names forward.
For instance, Penticton Mayor Dan Ashton might have some interest although he has yet to comment on whether he will run.
“We have received some interest from some high profile people already,” said Conservative riding president Doug Sharpe on Monday.
“We are very fortunate here in the Okanagan-Coquihalla because Stockwell Day and the (riding association) board have done just an amazing job of identifying the support,” Sharpe said.
“We know there are tremendous amount of supporters out there and also we are arrayed to fight an election if it were to happen.
“And so, there are a lot of people who are quite intrigued who think that this is an excellent opportunity if they ever were thinking of public life.”
The deadline for filing a Conservative candidate form is March 21.
However, despite Day’s popularity at the polls, not everyone thinks winning the Conservative nomination is the best way to become the Okanagan-Coquihalla’s MP.
Both the riding’s NDP and Liberal constituency organizations see Day’s retirement as a possible catalyst for a political shift in local fortunes at the polls.
“Stockwell Day was very well liked. He was a good community minded member. He served this riding well,” said NDP riding president Jeanette Wood.
But she noted that her party came in second in the riding during the last election.
“(Day retiring) improves our chances…because Stockwell Day was very well-liked and I suspect that many people voted for him because they liked him as a person,” she said.
So far, the NDP has one nominee—David Finnis, a three-term Summerland councillor—who has come forward, with the deadline for submissions today at 5 p.m. with the riding nomination meeting set for March 26.
“We need transparency and honesty in our government to support the democratic system which will facilitate the participation of all Canadians,” said Finnis.
“During my nine years on municipal council, I demonstrated my ability to work with my council colleagues on behalf of all residents.
“Now is the time to take this commitment to Ottawa and work on behalf of all Okanagan-Coquihalla constituents.”
The local Liberals have three nominees—Ashcroft resident John Kidder, registered nurse Shan Lavell and high school teacher Gordon Wiebe. The Liberal candidate vote is set for March 28 in a moving poll that will begin in Merritt, stop in Penticton and finish off in West Kelowna.
“One of the challenges for the Liberal party in this area is that there is not a lot happening.
“And so, we want to get the people not only knowing these candidates but to start getting people involved again,” said Liberal spokesperson Monica Sahlmark.
“It has been quite convenient that Day decided to retire because now we are getting even more press.
“To me it definitely makes a more even playing field and hopefully even more people will get involved.”
Bruce Walkinshaw is a Capital News contributor.