Election 2015: Riding a red wave into blue territory

Stephen Fuhr, 47, seems to be riding a red wave in blue territory, much like Bruce Howard, the only other Liberal MP

Could history be repeating itself?

Only time will tell. But Kelowna Lake Country MP designate Stephen Fuhr, 47, seems to be riding a red wave in blue territory, much like Bruce Howard, the only other Liberal MP to have been elected in this area.

Howard was elected in 1968 when Kelowna, like the rest of the country, came down with a case of ‘Trudeaumania.’

The 45-year-old was one of the 155 Liberals elected to the House of Commons that year. The Conservatives took only 72 seats.

On the night of his win, Howard attributed his success to Pierre Trudeau’s appeal in an interview with a Daily Courier reporter, pointing out that the newly elected prime minister had a way with connecting with people and galvanizing their political will.

Four years later, however, the prime minister’s star had faded in the west and Howard along with the vast majority of B.C. Liberals elected in ’68, were ousted.

A search of Elections Canada’s record of riding histories shows that Howard’s win is a standout for the better part of 60 years, otherwise the region has voted in Social Credit, Reform and Canadian Alliance MPs.

When the Progressive Conservatives merged with the Canadian Alliance, the Okanagan Valley officially became Conservative.

Fuhr’s Monday night win with 46.1 per cent of the vote  marks the party’s official return to the Central Okanagan, and whether he can stretch out his mandate for more than one term may depend largely with what happens nationally, says one political analyst.

“Before the election I was having coffee (with a friend) and we said, ‘if the Liberals can get six seats in B.C., that will be great,'” said Hamish Telford, who’s authored several books on Canadian politics. “We couldn’t see where they would get any ridings other than downtown (Vancouver.)”

They did, however.

Liberals racked up 17 wins in B.C. this election, which is far more than they’ve had since Trudeaumania 1.0.

“The challenge will be keeping them,” said Telford, pointing out that the current PM-designate is well aware of his issues father’s issues with B.C.

They may be something he’s able to overcome, however, as he has a better fix on what this province wants.

“He has deeper roots in B.C, having lived here …  and his mother’s side of the family lives here,” he said.

Issues that British Columbians will be watching Trudeau closely on, said Telford, have almost everything to do with pipelines. He’s come out opposed to Northern Gateway, but has been vague on his stance with Kindermorgan. He also has to tackle Canada East and keystone.

“The big question mark for Justin Trudeau,  is the Kindermorgan pipeline, that’s his problem now,” he said, pointing out that Conservative support of that pipeline is one do the things that upset a number of urban voters.

“It will be difficult for him to approve it, but if he doesn’t he will have other problems … like disaffecting the natural gas sector.”

Also key to future party success in B.C. will be how the MPs elected stack up.

Although Telford doesn’t know much about Fuhr, he said that the Lower Mainland candidates are a largely well qualified bunch of individuals, and that could bode well for their future in politics.