Kelowna developer Renee Wasylyk has announced she will seek the Conservative Party’s nomination for the next federal general election, a vote not expected until the fall of 2019. —Image: Alistair Waters/Capital News

First hat thrown into federal Tory nomination ring in Kelowna-Lake Country

Kelowna developer Renee Wasylyk out of gate early in bid for Conservative nomination

Kelowna developer Renee Wasylyk has made it official — she wants to to be the next MP for Kelowna-Lake Country.

Wasylyk, who has built her development company Troika into a Western Canadian enterprise over the last 20 years, told a crowd gathered atop the Innovation Centre in Kelowna Wednesday she is throwing her hat into the ring for the Conservative Party’s nomination in the riding.

No date has been set for a nomination meeting and the next federal election is not expected until the fall of 2019. But Wasylyk made it clear she is starting early in a bid to rebuild support for the party in a riding that has a long history of electing conservative candidates and was wrestled away in the last federal election by Liberal Stephen Fuhr. Fuhr was the first Liberal elected in the riding since 1972.

The 2015 election also saw a Liberal majority government elected in Ottawa.

Wasylyk said it was clear voters were unhappy with the Conservatives in the last election. But she said she belives a new generation of candidates can win back that support.

“I am an empowering leader, a visionary community believer, with a broad base of experience, and a heart for our community and our future,” said Wasylyk. “It’s time for Kelowna-Lake Country to have a voice in Ottawa, and bring our best ideas forward.”

In addition to running her group of companies, which build residential developments across Western Canada, Wasylyk also sits on several community boards, including the Breakfast Club of Canada and First West Credit Union and has a long long list of volunteer efforts in Kelowna, including the Nature’s Trust of BC and Opera Kelowna’s advisory council. Former B.C. Liberal premier Christy Clark appointed Wasylyk to her Women’s Economic Council and she has also been recognized by several organizations and publications for her work in the development industry.

Wasylyk, 42, holds two masters degrees and moved to Kelowna 20 years ago from Edmonton. She grow up in southern California but was born in Drumheller, Alta. She is the sister of Lane Merrifield, who helped develop the children’s interactive website Club Penguin before selling it to the Disney Corporation in 2007 for $350 million.

Wasylyk said she decided to run for the Tory nomination after being repeatedly asked to do so by Central Okanagan-Similkameen-Nicola Conservative MP Dan Albas, and after meeting new Conservative Party leader Andrew Scheer, someone she said she is very impressed with.

Calling Scheer “positive” and a “visionary,” she said has been impressed with his “character, charisma and competence.”

But she said her bid for the Kelowna-Lake Country Conservative nomination—and then the riding in the next general election if she wins the nomination—will not be about the party or politics.

“It’s about the person,” she said.

And she, added, she feels she’s the right person for the job.

A self-styled moderate, whose concedes her views on social issues may not have fit in with the Conservative Party under former leader Stephen Harper, Wasylyk said she plans to include people who voted Liberal in the last election on her team because its important to hear their concerns. She said Kelowna, and society as a whole, have changed in recent years and those changes need to be reflected in a new generation of leadership.

“It’s time for representation. It’s time to expand the tent pegs. It’s time to dream again,” she told her supporters Wednesday.

Albas, who spoke at the gathering as part of the introduction for Wasylyk, endorsed her saying “in every endeavour Renee has emerged as a true champion—someone who is visionary, who is talented, who is hard-working but yet is also compassionate and kind.”

Wasylyk is the first person to publicly announce a bid for Conservative nomination in the riding. Current Kelowna Coun. Tracy Gray is believed to be mulling over a bid the nomination as well.

One person who will not be going for it, however, is former MP Ron Cannan. Cannan has ruled out a bid to win back the job he lost to Fuhr in 2015.

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