The West Kootenay’s political climate is about to heat up during these dog days of summer.
Nomination meetings in the newly formed South Okanagan West Kootenay (SOWK) riding are being hosted throughout the region beginning today at 10 a.m. in Grand Forks for the first of four Conservative Party of Canada events that culminate Saturday in Penticton with the appointment of a candidate who will lead the political faction into the next federal election.
In the running is Penticton’s Marshall Neufeld and Kelowna’s Rick deJong.
Both men are travelling to Castlegar to deliver short speeches at the Sandman Inn today at 6 p.m., before heading back to the Okanagan for two final opportunities to appeal for member votes.
With new electoral boundaries, the Conservative SOWK President said the party is not certain how many local party members will turn up in Castlegar to register before choosing a candidate.
“This time it is a little different because of the new riding boundaries and it’s really hard to guess,” said Meagan Salekin “I’m expecting fewer people in Castlegar only because we’ve lost Nelson, and in the past those folks would come over and vote in Castlegar.”
Salekin expects a larger member turnout when the nomination meetings return to the Okanagan region.
“We don’t normally have one in Osoyoos so I am not too sure,” she continued. “But when we hit Penticton we’ll get a few hundred and it’ll be busy because most of our members are in Penticton.”
This time around, to accommodate far flung members of the large new riding, the Liberal Party of Canada is holding its two nomination meetings, one locally, on Saturday. The first Liberal gathering is at 10 a.m. in Rossland’s Red Mountain Resort Day Lodge and the second, in the afternoon at the Ramada Inn in Penticton.
With only one Liberal nominee, Summerland’s Connie Denesiuk, the meetings are a formality before she is declared SOWK’s Liberal Party leader by acclamation.
From current MLA NDP Alex Atamanenko’s home turf of Castlegar, the NDP association’s president told the Trail Times that new membership in SOWK’s NDP riding has doubled in the last six months.
“We now have 1,200 members and are growing,” said Vince Salvo from his Castlegar home. “We don’t have balloting details yet but we will be having meet-the-candidates events in September.”
Nomination meetings to select Richard Cannings from Penticton, or Margaret Maximenko from Christina Lake, into NDP leadership won’t happen until mid-October, he added.
The Green Party hasn’t announced a nominee in the SOWK district to date, but riding president Celeste Kitchen said possible candidates can still step forward.
The 42nd Canadian federal election is tentatively scheduled for October 19, 2015, in accordance with the Canada Election Act which requires that a general election be held on the third Monday of October in the fourth calendar year following polling day for the last general election.
Geographically, the South Okanagan West Kootenay riding is the largest electoral area in southern B.C. Almost 115,000 people live within its boundaries that extend through the Regional District of Kootenay Boundary and municipalities within; part of the Regional District of Central Kootenay including Castlegar, New Denver, Silverton, Slocan and Nakusp; and Penticton, Oliver and Osoyoos in the Regional District of Okanagan-Similkameen.