The next provincial election is still more than eight months away, but the slate of candidates is already starting to take shape.
BC NDP supporters in the Penticton riding are going to have at least two high-profile choices when it comes to selecting their candidate at a nomination meeting planned for Nov. 26.
Summerland councillor Toni Boot has already made her intention public, as has Hilma LaBelle, a local organizer and advocate. Penticton councillor Tarik Sayeed hasn’t made his intentions public yet, but is rumoured to be also considering a shift to provincial politics.
Greg McGowan is president of the BC NDP constituency association for the Penticton riding. He said they are enthused about the high-profile candidates that are coming forward.
“It has been the strategy to recruit specific candidates, they have been doing that all over the province.
“We have been keeping our eyes open for at least a year, to start the process of trying to identify people who we would think would be a good candidate and somebody that could represent the people of the constituency.”
Boot said her decision to run was inspired, in part, by the frustration she felt during the recent debate over closing Trout Creek Elementary.
“It was very frustrating knowing the impact this was going to have on our community and not being able to have any voice in finding solutions,” said Boot, adding that if successful in being chosen and elected in the May 9, 2017 election, she will have a stronger voice on issues.
“There is no appeal process. I think the process needs to be examined and I think education funding needs to be reworked,” said Boot. “Those are things that I can’t accomplish at the council table.”
Boot said she has other concerns that are out of the purview of municipal governance, including agricultural land and how it relates to food security as well as First Nations rights.
“I don’t think those are being addressed as well as they might be,” said Boot, who chose to run for NDP because they most closely match her value system and principles.
Boot says she is not worried by the challenge of competing with LaBelle and possibly Sayeed for the NDP nomination, or running for MLA if selected.
“I can answer that in three words. Bring it on,” said Boot. “I am never one to back down from a challenge. It is an opportunity to be able to do more for my constituents, in a larger area.”
Boot said she recognizes there are two other excellent candidates for the position, but trusts the system to select the best candidate.
“I wouldn’t approach this without intending to win,” she said.
Like Boot, LaBelle said the NDP matches well with her personal values, in this case, issues like affordability and caring for the disadvantaged and the most vulnerable in society.
“If the NDP doesn’t give them a voice, I don’t know who else would,” said LaBelle, organizer of the Incredible Edible project in Penticton, which turns unused plots into produce gardens.
“I’ve spent 30 years or more here working from a very grassroots perspective and I felt that I had exhausted all the avenues for change that were available at that level,” said LaBelle, who said the provincial MLA role would give her the opportunity to create even more direct change and bring about some good policies for the region.
In terms of competing with the other nomination prospects, LaBelle said she has lived or worked in all areas of the riding, except Peachland, and built up contacts.
“I know my community well,” said LaBelle. “I connect really well with people and I believe those are the strengths that I am bringing.”
McGowan said the party executive is happy with the candidates coming forward, adding there is the possibility for still more candidates to come forward before their nomination meeting on Nov. 26. That date was confirmed by the party, he said, though a venue has not been chosen yet.
Incumbent Liberal MLA Dan Ashton was acclaimed as that party’s 2017 candidate in June. The former Penticton mayor said he enjoyed his first term in provincial politics, and is planning on a second.
“I like good governance and I am going to continue to practice that and continue to deliver for the areas that I represent,” said Ashton, adding his respect for his possible competitors.
“What is important is that people get good representation for their area, and there are three fine individuals, some I have known for a long time,” said Ashton. “It will be up to the people to make the decision for who will best represent them.”