BC NDP sees opportunity in Kootenay ridings

NDP looking to flip Kootenay East back to orange, while maintaining hold on Columbia River - Revelstoke.

The provincial NDP sees opportunity in the Kootenay East riding with the pending retirement of longtime B.C. Liberal MLA Bill Bennett.

The provincial NDP sees opportunity in the Kootenay East riding with the pending retirement of longtime B.C. Liberal MLA Bill Bennett.

With the recent announcement of Kootenay East MLA’s pending retirement from politics, the B.C. Liberals will be needing a new candidate for the upcoming provincial election in 2017.

No one has declared their intent to run for the nomination, however, Bennett has indicated he knows of a few people who would be likely be interested.

While the B.C. Liberals await to see who emerges from the nomination race in the Kootenay East riding, the B.C. New Democratic Party already has a candidate declared—former Fernie mayor Randal Macnair.

Macnair is the only candidate to announce his intent to run for the NDP in the riding, but that could change moving into the summer, according to Craig Keating, the president of the BC NDP.

“As party president, I’m trying to attract candidates who have high local profile and I think Randal certainly does that, who bring a lot to the table,” Keating said. “It’s a privilege to run for a political party. If you’re successful, you’ll earn over $100,000 and certainly, I think we want to have the very best possible people with some deep roots in the community as candidates of our party.”

The Kootenay East riding has been a BC Liberal bastion since Bennett won his first term in 2001, flipping the riding from orange to red in a landslide provincial electoral victory that decimated the provincial NDP, shrinking the party down to only two seats in the legislature.

Bennett won re-election in 2005, 2009 and 2013—the latter a significant victory for the BC Liberals, as pundits and polls predicted the party would lose the election by a devastating margin.

Now, without an incumbent running in Kootenay East, the provincial NDP is eyeing up the opportunity to paint the riding back to orange on the electoral map.

“I think it’s on the way there,” said Keating. “…I think the reason is this: We have a government that is profoundly out of touch with the simple desires of people across this province to ensure that opportunity is a result of hard work.

“But that’s not what we have. We have people working hard and as hard as they’ve ever had before and they can’t get ahead because of this government’s policies.”

Next door to the Kootenay East riding in Columbia River-Revelstoke, there is a nomination contest brewing following a recent announcement from incumbent Norm Macdonald, who is also retiring from politics.

Keating heaped praise on Macdonald for his work in representing the constituents of Columbia River – Revelstoke.

“We’re certainly appreciative of all the work that Norm’s put in,” Keating said. “As a former mayor in the region, he brought with him deep insights about the Kootenays and his community.

“That was crucial around the caucus table, to have those insights and I absolutely get it—after a very long time in public life that Norm has had, both at the civic and provincial level, we’re going to miss him and wish him all the best.”

With Macdonald’s retirement, Gerry Taft, the current mayor of Invermere, and Spring Hawes, an Invermere councillor, have declared their intent to run under the NDP banner.

The B.C. Liberals will be fielding a familiar face, as Doug Clovechuk, who ran for the party in the last election, will be gearing up for another crack at the riding.

Keating says the BC NDP is confident that the party can keep its grasp on Columbia River – Revelstoke.

“I think we need to continue to prosecute the case against this government,” Keating said. “This is a government that does not deserve to be re-elected.

“…They have made life manifestly more difficult for people. People who have the simple desire that hard work should pay off with opportunity and all their policies that I can name stand in the way of that. You take a look at MSP fees, you take a look at ICBC charges, you take a look at the housing file, you take a look at virtually anything.”