NDP picks candidate to run against premier

Former John Howard Society boss Shelley Cook will run for the NDP is new Kelowna-West riding.

The NDP has found a candidate to run against B.C. Premier Christy Clark in what will become known as the Kelowna West riding.

The riding, which encompasses West Kelowna and part of downtown Kelowna, is now known as Westside Kelowna but will be renamed next month when the writ is dropped to officially start the campaign leading up to the May 9 provincial election.

Shelley Cook, the former executive director of the John Howard Society in Kelowna will be acclaimed as the NDP candidate for the riding at a nomination meeting scheduled for March 18, according to the party.

The meeting will be held at the BCGEU office on Borden Road in Kelowna , starting at 1 p.m. Retired economist David Bond and the NDP’s economic development, jobs, labour and skills critic Shane Simpson will speak at the meeting.

Cook, who is originally from Kelowna and is a PhD student in the community, culture and global studies (urban geography) at UBC Okanagan, is also currently leading two research studies on homelessness in the city.

The first is Mapping for Change: A Case Study of Enhancing Informational Exchange and Collaboration Through Geoweb Technology and involves creating and evaluating a spatial database of homelessness services in the city. The second is Cook’s doctoral research on homeless social capital that examines the relationship between homeless mobility and use of urban space and different sources and forms of social support. A former leader in the non-profit sector with more than 20 years experience working with marginalized and vulnerable populations in community-based and institutional settings, Cook has extensive experience in program and community development.

In her role as executive director of the John Howard Society in Kelowna—a position she held for more than 11 years—Cook was responsible for developing close to 100 units of housing for the homeless, as well as employment programs for people with disabilities, restorative justice and other alternatives to the formal criminal justice system. Many of the projects she worked on received funding from the province through grants and funding contributions.

Through her work, for which her organization received multiple awards and recognition for program and housing development, she says she established strong professional relationships with all levels of government, the business sector, non-profits and the broader community, relationships she said she retains today.

Clark, who came to the Central Okanagan after losing her Vancouver-area seat in the last provincial election to the NDP’s David Eby, won a by-election in Westside Kelowna after then-incumbent Ben Stewart stepped down just two weeks after retaining the seat for the Liberals in the 2013 election. Shortly after her by-election win here, Clark named Stewart B.C.’s trade representative to China.

In addition to Cook and Clark, the Green Party has named former federal Green Party candidate Robert Mellalieu and independent Brian Thiesen has also announced he plans to run in the riding.

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