Federal Election 2021: History shows Conservatives have strong foothold in North Okanagan-Shuswap | iNFOnews | Thompson-Okanagan's News Source

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Federal Election 2021: History shows Conservatives have strong foothold in North Okanagan-Shuswap

Clockwise from top left: Conservative Party candidate Mel Arnold, Liberal Party candidate Shelley Desautels, PPC candidate Kyle Delfing, NDP candidate Ron Johnston and Green Party candidate Andrea Gunner.
Image Credit: SUBMITTED
September 06, 2021 - 6:00 PM

As with much of the Interior, the North Okanagan-Shuswap riding has a long history of voting to the right of centre.

This riding includes Salmon Arm, Vernon, Coldstream, Lumby, Armstrong, Sicamous, Chase, part of the Columbia Shuswap Regional District and North Okanagan Regional District. Incumbent Mel Arnold was first elected in 2015 but the riding has a long history of voting to the right, dating back to the election of Reform Party MP Darrel Stinson in 1993. 

The only upset to this trend was in 1988 with the election of Lyle MacWilliam, who held an NDP seat. The riding has also closely mirrored its right-of-centre voting in provincial politics as a stronghold for the B.C. Liberal party until Harwinder Sandhu was elected for the NDP in 2020, perhaps providing some hope for non-Conservative candidates.

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 and an older population.

“It’s pretty consistent with the rest of the Okanagan which is Conservative usually,” he said, adding sometimes it also depends on the individual party leader.

Brian Mulroney, the former prime minister with the Progressive Conservative Party when the NDP was voted in, was extremely disliked in the riding, McGrath said.

In the last federal election in 2019, Arnold won in a landslide with 48.8% of the vote, followed by Liberal candidate Cindy Derkaz with 22.7%, according to Elections Canada.

North Okanagan-Shuswap riding boundary
North Okanagan-Shuswap riding boundary
Image Credit: Elections Canada


There are roughly 124,000 residents in this riding, a majority of whom are older than 50, according to 2016 census data.

Incorporated in 1965, the main economic drivers of the North Okanagan Regional District are agriculture, forestry and tourism, according to the regional district. 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. Its largest city is Vernon, with a population of 40,000.

The Shuswap and North Okanagan are both growing regions. Between 2016 and 2017, Salmon Arm was the city that saw the largest population growth across the province at 9.3%, according to the Salmon Arm Economic Development Society.

More than 25% of the city’s population is employed in the sales and service industry, followed by trades, and business and finance.

The riding also includes members of the Neskonlith Indian Reserve, Sahhaltkum Indian Reserve, Chum Creek, Hustalen, North Bay, Okanagan Indian Band, Quaaout, Salmon River, Scotch Creek, and Switsemalph bands.

There are also a number of older people who retired in the North Okanagan, Shuswap from the Prairies who tend to vote Conservative, McGrath said. Business people in the area also seem to vote more Conservative.

Today’s Issues:

With an unprecedented wildfire season, issues around climate change and wildfires come top of mind.

Thousands were evacuated from their homes this year due to wildfires, including those in Sicamous, regional districts in the North and Shuswap, and the Okanagan Indian Band. Thousands more were placed under evacuation alerts.

Amid a global pandemic, businesses have also struggled, with some permanently closing due to lost revenue. Others are in desperate need of staff.

Housing affordability and homelessness are also continuous problems throughout the Okanagan and Shuswap regions, exacerbated by the global pandemic. Although, Turning Points Collaborative Society executive director Randene Wejr said in February additional housing and government funding for those who aren’t working was effective in reducing Vernon’s crime rate.

READ MORE: More affordable housing and CERB behind dramatic decline in Vernon crime rate

Do voters show up?

Out of 107,712 eligible voters in the 2019 federal election, 74,594 cast their ballots, according to Elections Canada, meaning a voter turnout of 69%. The turnout was slightly higher than the federal average of 67% for that year.

Who to vote for:

Shelley Desautels, Liberal Party

Shelley Desautels has spent her whole life in the North Okanagan–Shuswap, having been born and raised in Vernon and having lived in Salmon Arm for the last seven years.

New to politics, Desautels has a passion for helping others and community engagement. She decided to run because she saw the need for real leadership in our communities and believes an engaged, local Liberal representative will best support the needs of North Okanagan–Shuswap, according to her bio.

“Right now, we are still working to finish the fight against COVID-19, while facing a housing crisis, a climate emergency, and the urgent need to achieve Truth and Reconciliation,” she said in her bio.

Desautels works as the GIS certificate instructor at Okanagan College, teaching mapping and data analysis. She also owns her own mapping company, where she works with First Nations Community Forests. She is the vice president of the Boxing for Wellness Society, a director of the Shuswap Cycling Club, a director of the B.C. Community Forest Association, and a service officer at the Royal Canadian Legion.

Mel Arnold, Conservative Party

Mel Arnold was first elected as Member of Parliament for the North Okanagan-Shuswap in October, 2015 and was re-elected in October, 2019.

Arnold served as Shadow Minister for Fisheries, Oceans and Canadian Coast Guard for Her Majesty’s Official Opposition from November 2019 through August 2020. Arnold also served as Deputy Shadow Minister for Fisheries and the Vice-Chair of the B.C. – Yukon Conservative Caucus during the 42nd Parliament, according to his bio.

As a member of the Salmon Arm Chamber of Commerce, President of Shuswap Pro-Development Association and multi year member of the Shuswap Daybreak Rotary Club, Arnold has actively contributed to the local communities.

He was raised on a family dairy farm in Notch Hill, B.C. near Shuswap Lake. He and Linda, his wife of 41 years, enjoy taking part in the tremendous outdoor recreation opportunities the North Okanagan-Shuswap offers and spending family time with their daughter and son-in-law who live in Calgary.

Ron Johnston, NDP

Ron Johnston is passionate about the environment and recognizes that Canada must take swift action to address the climate emergency and build a robust, sustainable economy, according to his bio.

He supports putting an end to fossil fuel subsidies and developing clean energy technologies that create well-paid jobs in the North Okanagan-Shuswap and across Canada.

Ron is also committed to fighting for action to reduce the cost of prescription drugs by instituting universal pharmacare, so no one goes without the medications they need. He also places great importance on working towards justice for and reconciliation with Indigenous people.

Johnston has lived in North Okanagan–Shuswap for more than 15 years and is familiar with the diversity of this large district, which encompasses many rural, urban, and Indigenous communities. He will be a local voice on the issues that matter to people here and will fight to ensure we get a fair pandemic recovery that benefits all our communities.

Andrea Gunner, Green

Andrea Gunner is a professional agrologist with 30 years of experience in business planning, agricultural marketing and agricultural economics.

She has been involved in a number of projects connecting agricultural producers with consumers in sustainable and economically viable systems, according to her bio.

Gunner has worked in farm business management, market and economic research for individual farm clients, producer co-operatives, farmers markets, first nations, industry associations and government at the municipal, provincial and federal levels.

Together with her husband, they run a certified organic, pastured poultry operation raising roasting chickens and turkeys on a small acreage in the North Okanagan.

Kyle Delfing, PPC

Kyle Delfing is passionate about family, freedom and financial prosperity.  As a Vernon entrepreneur, Delfing started a moving company with very little capital.
The company grew with drive, determination, and hard work, servicing the Okanagan Valley, Shuswap, and going Canada-wide, coast to coast, with no agency affiliation, according to his bio.

Born to a single mother, Delfing grew up in the North End of Winnipeg, where "People before Profit" is the motto.

He learned the benefits of hard work at the age of 11, washing dishes and learning hands-on skills with many part-time jobs as a teen, eventually landing in logistics.

Logistics afforded him experience in every aspect of transport from driving to shipping/receiving to cross rail management, finally working in heavy equipment operations and management, according to his bio.

He now enjoys passing on his experience as a youth by employing young people and mentoring those who need help in the workforce to procure a better life.

Running for the People's party in 2019 led him to take up more work within the party. 2020 brought new challenges and new opportunities, and with the snap provincial election, Delfing ran by invitation, with the CPBC earning 12.5% of the vote in Vernon-Monashee.

Some of Delfing’s goals include: bringing jobs to the North Okanagan Shuswap, which have a low impact on the environment, advocating for accessible drug addiction rehabilitation in scientifically proven, successful program, making Highway 1 an infrastructure priority and create four lanes right through the North Okanagan Shuswap, supporting the completion of infrastructure promises made by past Canadian governments to our communities and advocating for and educating Canadians on their Charter of Rights and Freedoms.

The federal election will be held Sept. 20.

— This story was corrected at 11:29 a.m. Friday, Sept. 10, 2021, to say Mel Arnold is a member of the Salmon Arm Chamber of Commerce and not a volunteer board member.

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