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ELECTION 2015: NDP candidate for South Okanagan - West Kootenay predicting tight race

Richard Cannings is federal NDP candidate for the new South Okanagan - West Kootenay riding.
August 25, 2015 - 11:37 AM

PENTICTON -  Penticton-born Richard Cannings thinks this year’s federal election will be a race between the NDP and Conservative parties in the new riding of South Okanagan - West Kootenay.

The 61 year old isn’t a stranger to politics, having run as a provincial NDP candidate three years ago.

“We did well, but not well enough to win,” he says, adding when Alex Atamanenko, MP of the old B.C. Southern Interior riding announced his retirement, Cannings decided to let his name stand in the federal ring.

Cannings is a biologist who spent 17 years at University of British Columbia, moving back to the Okanagan in 1995 where he ran a consulting company.

He’s written 12 books about B.C. and has served on the B.C. Environmental Appeals Board as well as the Forestry Appeals Commission.

“I travelled extensively through the province, learning quite a bit about law and decision making,” he says. “I know B.C. well.”

Cannings was a co-founder of the Meadowlark Society. He’s big on birds, having worked nationally on the commission on the status of endangered wildlife in Canada, as co-chair, and he’s a board member of the National Conservancy of Canada.

Half of his present work involves developing board-scale bird population studies.

Calling the new riding “diverse” Cannings sees the South Okanagan - West Kootenay riding as having two population centres with different economies; the Okanagan with its tourism, agriculture and retirees, and the Kootenays with more of an industrial base.

“Diversity is always interesting. It’s a big riding, too. It’s an 11 hour drive over six mountain passes to make the circuit. I’ve really enjoyed doing it. I started with the nomination process, so I’ve been driving around the riding for a year and half. It’s an amalgamation of two old ridings, one had a conservative MP, the other NDP. It’s going to be an interesting, tight race between the NDP and Conservatives. We’re really confident we have a really good shot at it,” he says.

Cannings believes the top three issues in the riding are the economy, the environment and the senate scandals, noting his party’s proposal of proportional representation. He says the NDP vow to abolish the senate, but that’s a long distance plan, with reforms to the senate aimed at providing an interim solution.

Locally, Cannings believes the biggest issues of a federal nature surround the renegotiation of the Columbia River Treaty in the Kootenays and the National Park proposal in the South Okanagan.

“There are many environmental issues around the Columbia River Treaty,” he says, noting during years such as this, the lake levels of the Arrow Lakes are so low people have to walk for hundreds of metres over cobbly ground to get to the water’s edge.

“It’s terrible for people in Nakusp, who rely on tourist trade for the summer,” he says, noting the national park issue has been back in the province’s hands until just recently.
“They own the land, so they need to be on side,” he says.

Cannings also sees health care and affordable housing as important election issues. He says the Conservative government has “gotten out of the affordable housing game,” downloading responsibility to lower levels of government.

To contact the reporter for this story, email Steve Arstad at or call 250-488-3065. To contact the editor, email or call 250-718-2724.

News from © InfoTel News Ltd, 2015
InfoTel News Ltd

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