NDP to choose federal candidate for South Okanagan-West Kootenay riding

On Saturday, all 1300 members of the NDP will have their last chance to cast a ballot for either Dick Cannings or Margaret Maximenko.

New Democrats are gearing up to make a final decision about who they want to represent party in the South Okanagan-West Kootenay (SOWK) riding for  next year’s federal election.

On Saturday, all 1,300 card-carrying members of the NDP will have their last chance to cast a ballot for either Richard (Dick) Cannings of Penticton or Margaret Maximenko from Christina Lake.

Vince Salvo, president of the SOWK NDP Riding Association, says both candidates have been hitting the campaign trail, meeting with as many party members as possible before Saturday’s vote.

“Margaret and Dick have each worked very hard to win this nomination, and have earned my respect for their abilities, honesty and integrity,” he said.

“My only regret is that only one of them will be our candidate in the next election. Margaret and Dick have recruited hundreds of new members with personal visits and ‘kitchen meetings’ during the long campaign. We want to be ready because there is increasing speculation that Prime Minister Harper will call an early election.”

Cannings is an avid birder, author and biologist heavily involved in environmental causes throughout the Okanagan, including holding seats on the BC Environmental Appeal Board and the BC Forest Appeals Commission. He is also one of the founders of the Meadowlark Festival and has published numerous titles on birding.

Maximenko has experience in local government as Rural Director of the Regional District of the Kootenay Boundary and as local government spokesperson for the Commission on Resources and the Environment (CORE). She also has 23 years of business experience in property management, retail and contracting.

The candidate voted in will be going up against candidates from the Conservative, Green and Liberal parties vying to represent the riding in Ottawa. The vote for the federal election is in October 2015.

Alex Atamanenko, MP for the riding, which used to be called BC Southern Interior, announced his retirement late last year and Salvo has a few outgoing words for the three-term NDP MP.

“Alex has been an amazingly effective MP,” said Salvo.

“He has increased his share of the vote each of the four races he has been in because residents recognize his dedication and ability to represent local citizens in an ethical and honest manner.”

The voting event will take place at the USCC Community Centre in Grand Forks, but members also have the chance to vote ahead of time if they can’t make it to the meeting.

“Ballots were mailed to members, from Ottawa, on Sept. 25 and 26,” said Salvo.

“Members who have not voted by mail will be given email instructions on how to vote electronically. Of course, people will be able to vote at the meeting on the 18th.”

The results of the vote will be tallied before the end of Saturday’s meeting, said Salvo.

“The mail and electronic ballots will be collected in Grand Forks, added to the on-site ballots and the candidate announced before the end of the meeting,” he said. “[The next step is] campaign kickoff.”

Those who want to vote in Saturday’s election, but aren’t registered members of the party are out of luck this time around, but Salvo says interested people can still sign up and join the NDP.

“The cut-off for eligibility to vote was Sept. 18,” he said.

“But, it is easy to apply for membership on the BCNDP website.”

Voting will start just after 2 p.m. on Saturday, following candidate and nominator speeches, with the result being announced just before 3 p.m. on the same day.