Federal Election 2021: Conservatives seem unassailable in Central Okanagan-Similkameen-Nicola | iNFOnews | Thompson-Okanagan's News Source

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Federal Election 2021: Conservatives seem unassailable in Central Okanagan-Similkameen-Nicola

Clockwise from top left: Dan Albas, Conservative; Joan Phillip, NDP; Sarah Eves, Liberal and Kathryn McDonald , People's Party of Canada.
Image Credit: SUBMITTED
September 05, 2021 - 6:28 PM

The Central Okanagan-Similkameen-Nicola riding stretches from downtown Kelowna to the farmlands of the Nicola Valley.

The riding includes farming, ranching and logging as key economic drivers for the rural areas in the Nicola Valley and South Okanagan.

But the vast majority of the voting population is clustered around the W.R. Bennett Bridge joining Kelowna and West Kelowna.

In 2015, the first election in which this riding existed, it was a tight race between the Conservatives and Liberals, with the NDP bringing in a significant percentage of the vote.

But Conservative incumbent Dan Albas bounced back in 2019 with a decisive win and seems destined to coast to victory again.

The NDP’s Joan Phillip is running again but finished a distant third in 2019. The Liberals are fielding Sarah Eves, a school teacher living in Merritt.

Regardless of who runs, it’s unlikely to make much difference in this traditionally Conservative, Reform or Canadian Alliance riding.

“Basically from Kelowna to Winnipeg, you’re pretty safe Conservative country,” Hamish Telford, a political science professor at the University of the Fraser Valley, told iNFOnews.ca.

“Federal campaigns, for a long time now, have been dominated by the national campaign, the national narrative, what people are seeing on their televisions or, increasingly, what they are seeing on social media and their perceptions of the leaders,” he added. “There are three variables here, the party, the leader and the local candidate and, I think, most people agree, the local candidate is usually the least significant.”

Riding History

The Central Okanagan–Similkameen– Nicola riding was created during the 2012 federal electoral boundaries redistribution and was first contested in the 2015 election.

The riding is made up of pieces of former ridings including Okanagan-Coquihalla (66%), Kelowna-Lake Country (25%) and British Columbia Southern Interior (10%).

The Okanagan-Coquihalla riding dates back to 1997 when it was held by Jim Hart for the Reform Party. Stockwell Day took over as the MP in 2000 for the Canadian Alliance Party.

In 2011, Dan Albas won the riding for the Conservatives with almost 54 per cent of the vote.

When parts of Kelowna-Lake Country were added to the riding, it brought with it a similar Conservative leaning.

Despite that strong Conservative background, when the new riding was first contested in 2015, Albas won it by a fairly narrow margin, pulling in 39.6 per cent of the votes just ahead of Liberal Karley Scott at 37.2 per cent with the NDP’s Angelique Wood getting 19.3 per cent.

Albas had no problem winning it in the 2019 election, rising to 47.9 per cent of the votes. Liberal Mary Anne Murphy finished a distant second with 25 per cent. The NDP’s Joan Phillip came in third with 16.8 per cent of the votes.

Falling far behind were the Green Party’s Robert Mellalieu at 7.8 per cent, Allan Duncan of the People’s Party of Canada only gained 2.1 per cent of the vote and Libertarian Jesse Regier only managed 0.3 per cent.

Are you in this riding?

The map and full description are included below but, basically, the riding stretches from the U.S. border to Logan Lake, from Princeton to a small slice of downtown Kelowna.

It also includes Keremeos, Summerland, Peachland, West Kelowna, Merritt, Logan Lake and everyone, including several First Nations, in between.

Image Credit: Submitted/Elections Canada

The finger reaching into Kelowna is basically from Highway 97/Harvey Avenue to Mission Creek, reaching up Springfield Road as far as Ziprick Road. It follows the highway only to Dilworth Drive then cuts down to Springfield Road.

Who are you?

Statistics Canada says the riding had 110,293 people as of the 2016 census and about 84,000 eligible voters.

According to that census, about 30 per cent (32,655) of those lived in West Kelowna and another 22 per cent (24,511) lived in the other incorporated cities as follows: Summerland (8,742), Merritt (5,321), Peachland (4,698), Princeton (2,828), Keremeos (1,714), Logan Lake (1,208).

There is no breakdown of how many people in the riding live in Kelowna.

From an ethnic perspective, it’s not very diversified, with 82 per cent being European backgrounds, 10.2 per cent First Nations then a sharp drop-off to 1.6% South Asian followed by small pockets of other ethnicities.

What to watch for

Forest fires, drought and the extreme heat have plagued the riding all summer and fires still threaten communities like Merritt, West Kelowna and Peachland.

READ MORE: One more day of the heat wave pushes Okanagan and Canadian records even higher

That should have made climate change a major issue in this campaign, Telford said. But that has not happened.

“If the campaign had gone the way the Liberals had wanted it to, perhaps, with all the forest fires that have plagued the Interior of B.C. and the Okanagan in particular, a Liberal campaign focused on climate change may have helped,” Telford said. “Surprisingly to me, the Liberals, who called this election, have run a very unfocused campaign. I don’t think it’s game over for them yet but I don’t think there’s any chance of them turning fortunes in the Okanagan.”

READ MORE: Fire tore into Killiney Beach at 80 metres a minute

Likely outcome?

Canada 338 does regular projections of election outcomes.

As of Aug. 31, it predicted 140 seats for the Liberals and 139 for the Conservatives out of 338 seats, so 170 are needed for a majority.

It lists Central Okanagan-Similkameen-Nicola as a “safe seat” for the Conservatives, the same ranking it gives to the North Okanagan and Kamloops ridings. Only Kelowna-Lake Country is seen as “likely” Conservative.


Conservative Party of Canada – Dan Albas

Before entering public life, Albas was the owner of Kick City Martial Arts in Penticton.

In 2008 he topped the polls when he ran for Penticton city council.

Three years later, in the spring of 2011, Albas won the nomination to replace Stockwell Day in the Okanagan-Coquihalla riding. Albas went on to easily win the federal election later that year then was elected to the reconfigured riding in 2015.

When this election was called Albas was the vice-chair of the Environment and Sustainable Development Committee.

Liberal – Sarah Eves

A resident of Merritt, Sara Eves teaches elementary school in Logan Lake and was a volunteer with the Hospital Auxiliary Thrift Store before it was closed due to COVID.

In a news release, she says she’s a “tireless advocate for the LGBTQ2S community” and provides diversity training for faculty and staff.

“Sarah champions individuality and expression, and stands up for inclusivity and acceptance at every turn,” the release states.

She and her family created a scholarship to support students graduating from either Merritt Secondary School or Kengard Learning Centre.

NDP – Joan Phillip

Phillip is a former Penticton Indian Band councillor and a lands manager.

She and husband Grand Chief Stewart Phillip, received the Eugene Rogers Environmental Award in 2017 for their commitment to defending lands, waters, and the environment, according to her web page.

“Joan pledges to support people in need, especially those who often go unnoticed,” says a profile on the NDP website for the riding. “She will make sure the voices of people across the Central Okanagan–Similkameen–Nicola district are heard in Ottawa.”

People’s Party of Canada – Kathryn McDonald

Kathryn McDonald has worked as a paralegal/legal assistant for more than 12 years, according to the People’s Party of Canada website.

“She works every day to protect Canadians who suffer injury at the hands of others,” it says. “Kathryn has a keen sense of justice and fully supports truth, transparency, and equality of opportunity

The website doesn’t say where she lives but her Linked-In page says she works for Cross Border Law in Vancouver.

To contact a reporter for this story, email Rob Munro or call 250-808-0143 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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