Contenders set sights on Penticton Liberal nomination

Two announce candidacy for spot being vacated by Bill Barisoff, while Penticton and Summerland mayors weigh their options

Less than 24 hours after Bill Barisoff announced he would not be running for re-election, the first contender to replace him threw their hat in the ring and is expected to be followed today by another announcement.

Connie Denesiuk announced her intentions Aug. 20 during a press conference bedside the SS Sicamous in Penticton, noting that this was the same day she was married, 35 years ago. She has been considering running for provincial office for some time, and said it figured in her choice not to run for re-election as school trustee during the last municipal election.

“I was asked to run for school board, for town council and for mayor in the last election and I declined, because I am quite focused on the direction that I want to head and where I want to contribute,” said Denesiuk. Denesiuk’s website is available at

She is not the only one online, however.  A website was discovered Monday for Mark Ziebarth, While he didn’t expect his site to be found so soon, he said he planned to announce his intentions during a family gathering tonight.

A successful businessman and former member of the local Liberal party executive, Ziebarth positions himself as a free-enterprise candidate “first and last,” and said the B.C. government has managed the economy masterfully over the last decade and is positioned to have another good decade.

“If we don’t screw things up. The best thing we can do for the children is to make sure the economy goes forward,” he said. “How do we create more jobs and more wealth? That’s more fun than cutting government programs.”

Highlighting 32 years of working as partner with her husband in their small construction business, Denesiuk said she also has practical business experience to go along with governance and leadership skills developed through 20 years of  service as school trustee and board chair,  and provincially as president of the B.C. School Trustees Association.

“We need more paying jobs to support our families,” said Denesiuk, who also includes fiscal prudence and moving towards a balanced budget on her platform.

Though she will be switching perspective from school trustee to the government side, Denesiuk said working on the provincial level has given her an understanding of the responsibilities that exist at that level as well as government contacts, including with Premier Christy Clark, who she has spoken with about her intentions to run.

“I was on her radio show a number of times when I was president of the BCSTA and so I got to know Premier Clark at that time and she has been very encouraging since then,” said Denesiuk.

Two local mayors have also figured high in speculation about who would replace Barisoff when he retired, but neither is yet willing to confirm whether they will enter the nomination race.

Penticton Mayor Dan Ashton said he is not yet ready to make an announcement one way or another, adding that this is a busy period in city.

“I am giving it serious consideration,” he said. “But right now, my concentration is on getting through Ironman week. We have so much on the go.”

Likewise, Summerland Mayor Janice Perrino isn’t ready to declare her intentions.

“It’s just so early,” she said. “I am thinking things through carefully.”

Denesiuk said a strong nomination race would be a benefit all around.

“It’s a good opportunity for the community, the Liberal party and subsequently the Penticton riding for the people to have choices,” she said.

With the Liberals slipping provincially, Ziebarth said that the riding needs to find the best candidate it can.

“I think it will be a tough election,” he said, adding there is also a potential threat from the right, meaning the B.C. Conservative Party. While he wants to win the nomination race, Ziebarth said he will support whoever is chosen.

The Liberal nomination meeting for the Penticton constituency is scheduled for Oct. 20 at the Ramada Inn. Voting is open only to Liberal party members.