B.C. Election 2020: History suggests B.C. Liberals still have lock on Vernon-Monashee | iNFOnews | Thompson-Okanagan's News Source

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B.C. Election 2020: History suggests B.C. Liberals still have lock on Vernon-Monashee

Clockwise from left: Conservative candidate Kyle Delfing, NDP candidate Harwinder Sandhu, B.C. Liberal candidate Eric Foster and B.C. Green Party candidate Keli Westgate are vying to be the next Vernon Monashee MLA.
Image Credit: SUBMITTED
October 23, 2020 - 7:00 PM

Like the rest of the Okanagan, Vernon-Monashee has traditionally been a right-of-centre riding and since 1996, that has meant the B.C. Liberal party.

The riding, which encompasses Vernon, Coldstream and Lumby stretches northeast to the North Okanagan Electoral Area E. B.C. Liberal incumbent Eric Foster was first elected in 2009. In 2017, he beat B.C. NDP’s Barry Dorval by more than 5,000 votes, according to Elections B.C. 

The only time a competitor even got close was in 2009 when the NDP earned 31.8 per cent of the vote — closer to the Liberal’s 37.3, but not enough to swing the election.

Former Vernon mayor Wayne McGrath and longtime North Okanagan resident who has been involved in various political parties throughout the years, thinks the region tends to have more right-of-centre politics due to small businesses.

“It’s always been a free enterprise riding,” he said. “I think probably because most people here are right of centre, although I think in recent years that may be changing a little bit… we have a lot of people here that have small businesses.”

Vernon's older age demographic also tends to be more conservative at the ballot box.

Demographics:

With roughly 50,000 registered voters in the district, the riding's largest city is Vernon with a population of 40,000. Overall, the North Okanagan has a population of 80,000 and has experienced a 3.8 per cent growth change from 2011 to 2016, according to census data.

The North Okanagan also has an older population; the largest age group is between the ages of 50-70.

Incorporated in 1965, the main economic drivers of the North Okanagan Regional District are agriculture, forestry and tourism, according to the regional district.

“We have a lot of people that move here from the prairies that are generally right of centre, more so than the coast,” McGrath said, adding that although there are residents that move to the North Okanagan from the Lower Mainland, they tend to be entrepreneurs that are focused on free enterprise.

The riding also includes roughly 2,000 Okanagan Indian Band members.

The Vernon Monashee riding.
The Vernon Monashee riding.
Image Credit: Elections B.C.

Today’s issues:

Issues with homeless and street crime pushed its way to the top of the agenda in the last few years, along with housing affordability in the Okanagan and lack of daycare spaces.

In 2018, the City of Vernon activated the Active Safety Task Force, in response to the issues brought forth by Vernon's business community.

The task force was formed in response to anti-social behaviour taking place in the city's downtown core and it presented over 40 recommendations to council in July 2018.

With a large demographic over 50 years old, issues facing seniors are prevalent in the riding. Healthcare, and in particular a shortage of family doctors has been on ongoing concern for numerous years.

Growing the economy and attracting business to the area, especially in smaller rural towns where traditional industries have dried up, is often cited as key in enabling the area to succeed.

READ MORE: Vernon to consider hiring private security to patrol downtown

Do voters show up?

In 2017, turnout dipped slightly at  54.7 per cent compared to the previous election in 2013 where the voting turnout was at 57 per cent.

Voters in those elections didn’t have to deal with a global pandemic, so we'll have to see how COVID-19 will affect turnout.

Who to vote for in Vernon Monashee?

Kyle Delfing, Conservative

In 2019, Kyle Delfing ran for a spot in the North Okanagan-Shuswap riding with the People's Party of Canada.

Businessman and owner of Hugo's Moving, Delfing is originally from Manitoba and moved to Vernon in 2013.

Eric Foster, BC Liberal Party

Eric Foster was re-elected in 2017 as MLA for Vernon-Monashee. He serves as the Official Opposition Caucus Whip.

He served on a number of committees, including the Environment and Land Use Committee and the Agenda and Priorities Committee. He has been a member of the Select Standing Committees on Legislative Initiatives, Parliamentary Reform, Ethical Conduct, Standing Orders, and Private Bills, and Finance and Government Services.

Prior to his election as MLA, Eric was mayor of the Village of Lumby for four years, and a councillor for 12 years. He was also a director of the North Okanagan Regional District.

Foster is a registered forest technician and a past member of the Royal Canadian Mounted Police Auxiliary, as well as a director of the North Okanagan Community Futures Development Corporation.

He and his wife Janice have been volunteering, working, and living in the North Okanagan for more than 30 years.

Harwinder Sandhu, BC NDP

Harwinder Sandhu, A well-known community activist and nurse at Vernon Jubilee Hospital, has worked in healthcare for over 15 years. Raised on a farm, she was able to begin nursing with the support of her parents.

Harwinder’s commitment to public service is inspired by her own personal experience of overcoming hardship. She knows how hard it can be to make ends meet and get by. After being left widowed with two toddlers, the experience of being a single, working mother required all her strength. Now married to healthcare worker Baljit, together they are raising three children.

She has fought for better healthcare for everyone and fair treatment for nurses with the BC Nurses Union, and advocated for initiatives like the Vernon Food Bank, Sock it to Poverty, Coldest Night of the Year, and the Heart and Stroke Foundation. She launched a petition to end hospital parking fees and is standing up for decent wages, housing, the environment, fighting climate change, and support for small businesses.

Keli Westgate, BC Green Party

Keli Westgate is motivated by a deep desire to achieve change for the greater good. She is concerned about the looming crisis of climate change, the impact of industrial logging on our forests and the concern about food insecurity from unsustainable farming practices. She is all about jobs for the new economy, a just transition for workers, building resilience through renewable energy projects, improving public transit and assuring guaranteed livable income.

She is tired of the old-school thinking that has created unprecedented inequality in our society and exacerbated addictions and homelessness. She is ready to advocate for progressive ideas and change.

B.C. Election Day is Oct. 24.


To contact a reporter for this story, email Carli Berry or call 250-864-7494 or email the editor. You can also submit photos, videos or news tips to the newsroom and be entered to win a monthly prize draw.

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