It’s a little under two years away but one Penticton city councillor has already thrown her hat into the ring for the upcoming 2015 federal election in the new riding of Okanagan South-Kootenay West.
Helena Konanz, who has been involved with municipal politics in the Okanagan since being elected in 2011, announced Wednesday that she will be seeking the nomination to represent the Conservative Party in the next election cycle.
Although the Conservative Party only held its founding meeting for the new riding less than a month ago, Konanz said that it was prudent to get her campaign rolling as soon as possible.
“The time and place for the nomination meeting hasn’t been decided yet,” said Konanz.“But things are going quickly. I expect that the nominations could be held as soon as January and then it’ll be two years of getting to know the people and the issues in this vast riding.”
After graduating from UCLA with a political science degree, Konanz toured as a professional tennis player. After retiring from professional sports, Konanz worked in retail management in the U.S. until moving to the Okanagan 20 years ago with her husband and entering the small business sector.
Admittedly, not very familiar with the West Kootenay, Konanz believes her people skills and energy will allow her to successfully represent the widely varying economic areas and communities of the Southern Interior of B.C.
“I think it will take someone with a diverse background to represent the people of this riding,” she said. “We have to find the ties that bridge the entire area and I think economic development, something that I focussed on as a municipal representative, is something we all have in common throughout the area. I’ve also been working on skills and trades training, which I also think is something we have in common.”
The new riding of South Okanagan-Kootenay West encompasses the entire Regional District of Kootenay Boundary, as well as Castlegar, New Denver, Silverton, Slocan, and Nakusp and stretches into parts of the Regional District of Okanagan-Similkameen including Penticton, Oliver, and Osoyoos.
The Southern Interior has been re-districted numerous times in the past, at times being branded Kootenay West-Revelstoke, Kooetnay-Boundary-Okanagan, and British Columbia Southern Interior.
The region has been an NDP stronghold for much of its history, other than the period from 1993 to 2006 when Jim Gouk held the MP’s seat for the Reform Party, the Canadian Reform Alliance Party, and then the Conservatives, but Konanz says she can swing the new riding to the political right again in the next election.
“It’s going to take somebody with a lot of energy and the time to spend with people,” Konanz said. “I’m going to have to listen to all the things people in this area are concerned about and look for the similarities. I’ll be out there to get feedback from the people.”