Tom Shypitka has won the B.C. Liberal Party nomination in the Kootenay East riding and will be running in the provincial election next May.
Shypitka, a long-time Cranbrook resident who was elected to city council in November 2014, will be running in the stead of Bill Bennett, who is retiring after 16 years of representing Kootenay-East as MLA.
As per B.C Liberal Party rules, the specific vote tallies were not disclosed.
“I’m a little bit overwhelmed, but not overwhelmed in a bad way,” Shypitka said, after delivering a victory speech to supporters at the Rocky Mountain Prestige Resort on Sunday evening. “It’s just a lot of emotion that’s come up; it’s been a year and a half in the making.
“I started taking on this responsibility so to speak about a year and a half ago with the anticipation that this could be a reality. We’ve had a lot of heart-to-heart conversations with my family to see if this is something that we want to actually pursue, so that was probably the biggest hurdle to overcome, the family responsibilities.
“But we know we can work it into our plan and I can hardly wait to start tomorrow.”
Shypitka announced his intention to seek the party nomination in July, running against former Kootenay-Columbia MP David Wilks, who was also vying for the opportunity.
Terry Segarty, a former Social Credit Party MLA who represented the East Kootenay region from 1979-1986, also ran for the nomination but his application was rejected by a B.C. Liberal Party candidate selection committee for undisclosed reasons.
Shypitka will resume his city council duties while campaigning for the provincial election, which is tentatively scheduled for May 9, 2017.
“It’s organization time, it’s getting the team together,” said Shypitka. “As you saw during the nomination, if you don’t have a good team, you don’t get results, and we had a great team and we’re looking on expanding that team.
“That’ll be the first step.”
Shypitka says he will be able to balance his city councillor role with his new responsibilities as a provincial party candidate, adding that he can wear the two hats barring any conflicts of interest.
“Municipal government is non-partisan, so I have to be careful not to bring partisanship into city council and I’m comfortable I’ll be able to do that,” Shypitka said. “I’ll put my city hat on every time I step into chambers. There might be a conflict from time to time, but I’ll be aware of those conflicts and I’ll step aside when that comes.
“I’m comfortable that I’ll be able to fulfill my obligations to the city.”
Shypitka will be running against either fellow city councillor colleague Norma Blissett or Randal Macnair, the former mayor of Fernie, who are both vying for the Kootenay East NDP nomination.
“The general election is going to be a bit more broader now, so some of the issues that are relative to this area are going to be land-use access issues, wildlife management issues, health care — our regional hospital, I want to expand on that — and education,” Shypitka said. “I think those would be the four top ones.”
Shypitka replaces Bennett, who has won the last four electoral terms as the B.C. Liberal Party candidate, and served as cabinet ministers in a number of roles, including his current portfolio as Minister of Energy and Mines.
“The bar is high, the shoes are big,” said Shypitka. “What have I learned from Bill? Character, drive, passion, heart. Those are the things that I think I have inherently and I think that’s why Bill took me under his wing; I think he saw that in me.
“I can’t speak like Bill, I can’t act like Bill. Sometimes that’s a good thing, sometimes that’s a bad thing, but I’ll have my own way of handling things. But what will stay the same is the drive and the heart and the moving forward with making this place a better place to live.”
Outside of life of politics, Shypitka works as a financial advisor with Sun Life Financial. He is married to wife Carrie, and has three children — Allie, Adam and Dustin.