Two men will duke it out for the provincial NDP nomination in Kelowna-Lake Country later this month.
With the countdown on for the May 12 B.C. election, UBC Okanagan student Tom Macauley and area businessman Mike Nuyens will vie for the nomination and the right to challenge B.C. Liberal incumbent and provincial Agriculture Minister Norm Letnick. The NDP riding association will hold its nomination meeting Feb. 26 at the Rutland Centennial Hall.
The B.C. Conservative Party has already nominated its candidate in the riding, former Kelowna city councillor Graeme James.
According to the Kelowna-Lake Country NDP constituency association president Matthew Reed, his party, from leader Adrian Dix on down, believes it can win the traditionally strong Liberal riding this time around.
Reed said Thursday that belief comes from an increase in interest in the NDP in recent years in the area. He said the constituency association now has between 250 and 300 members—the highest number in the four years he has been president—and in the last year alone it has seen a surge in both the number of volunteers willing to work for the party here.
Dix, who has come to the Central Okanagan many times in the last two years for announcements, meetings and appearances, has repeatedly said his party is targeting the Okanagan as somewhere it believes it can take seats from the Liberals in the next election.
Reed said both Macauley and Nuyens have had success signing up new members and the riding association believes the NDP will attract a large number of young voters who live in the riding.
Once part of a Social Credit stronghold, what is now Kelowna-Lake Country has been held by the B.C. Liberals since 1991, when Judy Tyabji won it for the party that was, at that time, lead by Gordon WIlson.
Following a challenge to Wilson’s leadership by Gordon Campbell after Wilson made Tyabji, who he was having an extra martital affair with at the time, his party’s house leader in the Legislature, Tyabji quit the Liberals in 1993 and sat as an independent before joining Wilson’s new party, the Progressive Democratic Alliance.
Tyabji ran in the 1996 election as a PDA candidate but was defeated by her ex-brother-in-law, Liberal candidate John Weisbeck, the B.C. Liberal candidate. Weisbeck held the riding until 2005 when he decided not to run again and was succeeded by Liberal candidate, former Conservative MP and former Kelowna city councillor Al Horning. Letnick easily won the riding for the Liberals in 2009 after Horning quit politics.
Over in Kelowna-Mission, only one candidate for the NDP nomination has publicly put her name forward. Local businesswoman Dayleen Van Ryswyk, who has waged a public battle with the province over road access to her Okanagan Koi business on Highway 33, is expected to be acclaimed as the party’s candidate to face incumbent Liberal and B.C.’s Minister of Forests, Lands and Natural Resource Operations Steve Thomson.
Mike McLoughlin, a long-time Kelowna businessman who has opened two medical clinics here, has been nominated in the riding by the B.C. Conservative Party.
The third Central Okanagan riding, Westside-Kelowna, has candidates for the Liberals, NDp and Conservatives al in place already. The riding is currently represented by Liberal Ben Stewart, B.C.’s Minister of Citizen’s Services and Open Government. He will be challenged by the NDP’s Carole Gordon, an elementary school teacher in Kelowna and the B.C. Conservative Brian Guillou, a West Kelowna contractor and businessman.