Former Fernie mayor Randal Macnair has captured the NDP nomination for the Kootenay-East riding and will run for the party in the provincial election next spring.
Macnair beat out Cranbrook city councillor Norma Blissett to earn the nomination nod, which was decided by party membership vote in Cranbrook at the Anglican Church.
“We had a really good race in Kootenay East,” Macnair said, in an interview with the Townsman on Monday. “There were two excellent candidates and I ended up being the candidate that membership chose.”
The results of the membership vote were not disclosed.
Macnair has 15 years of experience in the political realm; six as Fernie mayor and nine as city councillor. During his tenure in municipal politics, he also served on the RDEK board and the Kootenay East Regional District Hospital Board.
Macnair announced his intent to run for the NDP nomination in June.
“The process, at the end of the day, was a very satisfying one for us,” Macnair said. “The thing I enjoyed the most about it was getting out and talking to people, literally hundreds of people and getting their ideas and getting their thoughts. That’s a big part of what an election is about, to refresh your connection with the people of whatever body you’re representing.”
Those conversations with constituents revealed a litany of issues that Kootenay East residents are passionate about, Macnair added.
“The big issues are transparency in government, trust, education and the big money in government,” Macnair said. “People are saying to me that they want a government they can have faith in, they want a government that’s going to be fair to them because they don’t feel they’ve had that.”
Macnair sees opportunity in the East Kootenay, citing a vibrant resource industry and low cost of living, adding that the secret is out as people look to flee the sky-high housing costs of the Lower Mainland.
“When you look at what happened in Fernie, coal is king,” Macnair said. “Coal is our bedrock here and the coal industry is absolutely essential to our way of life. But now, we’ve got resort recreation industry, we’ve got high-tech industries moving in to places like Fernie.
“Sparwood, Elkford, South Country, Cranbrook, all have similar opportunities.”
The Kootenay-East election will be one to watch, as long-time MLA Bill Bennett — who has represented the riding for the B.C. Liberals for the past 16 years — is retiring, with Cranbrook city councillor Tom Shypitka stepping in after capturing the party nomination a few weeks ago.
Does that present an opening for the NDP?
“It certainly does, but what I’ve been hearing out and about, regardless of who is running for the Liberals, is there’s an appetite for change,” said Macnair. “And there’s a real appetite for getting past Christy Clark and having a new government that’s not headed by Christy Clark.
“But not having the incumbent in the race is going to shift the discussion a lot.”