Get used to seeing more Conservative MPs in Lake Country and Kelowna in the coming weeks and months, says the Okanagan’s only Liberal representative in the House of Commons.
“(My win) was one of the biggest political upsets in the country in 2015,” said Stephen Fuhr, MP of Kelowna-Lake Country.
“I am the only federal Liberal MP in the Interior.”
Of the 18 Liberal MPs in B.C., the rest are in fact in the Lower Mainland.
What may be more striking, however, is that Fuhr turned more than 50 years of history on its head in 2015 when he ousted Conservative MP Ron Cannan by taking 46 per cent of the vote.
The last time a Liberal MP held a riding in this area was when Pierre Trudeau was first elected Prime Minister and the country was swept up in Trudeau mania. By the end of that term, Trudeau fell out of favour in B.C. and conservatives were back in power in the Okanagan.
Fuhr said a lot has changed since then and his political rivals know it.
“This is an important part of the country,” he said. “It’s growing and it’s a fabulous place to live.”
Roughly 60 per cent of students who graduate from UBC Okanagan now stay in the area and there is a flood of people moving to the Interior from the Lower Mainland because it’s more affordable.
“Not just Kelowna – Lake Country, but the entire valley, is remarkably different than it was 10 years ago. I think we can win more ridings here,” he said.
“There’s lots of opportunity and the bottom line is that Conservatives want this riding back …You are going to see a parade of Conservative MPs rolling through town I would suspect from now all the way to the election.”
What the riding may also see is a Green candidate come to the fore.
In the last election, they opted to not run a candidate and let Fuhr be the progressive candidate in the region, so long as he would work toward electoral reform.
“I did the very best I could to advocate for them and they got legitimate representation on that issue from me, which they wouldn’t have gotten from the other guy,” said Fuhr. “And at the end of the day the government made a decision for a whole host of reasons.”