Federal Election 2021: Top candidates from 2019 face off again in South Okanagan-West Kootenay riding | iNFOnews | Thompson-Okanagan's News Source

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Federal Election 2021: Top candidates from 2019 face off again in South Okanagan-West Kootenay riding

The faces of the candidates running in the 2021 federal election for the riding of South Okanagan West Kootenay. Clockwise from the top left are Conservative Helena Konanz, NDP Richard Cannings, People's Party Sean Taylor, Liberal Ken Robertson, and Green Tara Howse.
Image Credit: FACEBOOK
September 06, 2021 - 6:00 PM

The merger of the South Okanagan and the West Kootenays into a single riding brought together two cities on opposite ends of the spectrum.

Its most populated centres are the City of Penticton in the South Okanagan, and the City of Castlegar in the West Kootenays. In 2013, Elections Canada announced that the two communities, located hundreds of kilometres apart, would be combined into a single riding. Penticton and Castlegar were both seen as strongholds before they had to share the same space – Penticton's former riding had a long streak of electing Conservative MPs, while Castlegar was home to NDP heavyweight Alex Atamanenko, who served for more than a decade before that riding of British Columbia Southern Interior was dissolved.

The first election in the riding of South Okanagan West Kootenays was in 2015, and it saw a close three-way race. A strong performance by local Liberal candidate Connie Denesiuk, as well as a successful campaign by her party leader, saw her finish in a close third with 28 per cent of the vote, despite spending a small fraction of the first and second place finishers.

Conservative candidate Marshall Neufeld finished in second with nearly 30 per cent of the vote, and Richard Cannings for the NDP, won with a comfortable lead of nearly 5,000 votes and 37 per cent.

In 2019 the riding saw a much tighter race. Cannings won again, but it was a two-way race that saw him defeat Conservative candidate Helena Konanz, a former Penticton City councillor, by fewer than 1,000 votes. Cannings received 24,809 votes compared to Konanz’s 24,053. Denesiuk finished third with 11,705 votes.

The 2021 election will see a rematch between four out of the five candidates. Cannings and Konanz are both in the running. Green candidate Tara Howse and People’s Party of Canada candidate Sean Taylor also threw their names into the hat in 2019 and both finished with single digit percentages in the last campaign. 

A map of the federal riding of South Okanagan West Kootenay.
A map of the federal riding of South Okanagan West Kootenay.
Image Credit: ELECTIONS.CA

Demographics:

The riding has 114,695 citizens, according to 2016 Census data, which was a growth of 2.3 per cent over 2011. The two biggest cities – Penticton and Castlegar – have populations of 33,761 and 8,039 respectively. Smaller communities in the 17,699 square kilometre riding include Trail, Grand Forks, Oliver, Osoyoos, OK Falls, Kaleden, Winlaw, Big White, Christina Lake, Rock Creek, Fruitvale, Midway, Montrose, New Denver, Silverton, Slocan and Nakusp. It is also home to the Osoyoos Indian Band and the Penticton Indian Band.

The average age within the riding is 48.2 and the median age is 52.7. There are 52,125 private dwellings and an average household size of 2.1 people. 

Agriculture and tourism are the major economic drivers throughout the vast riding. Drivers can spend three hours travelling along Highway 3 from Osoyoos to Fruitvale without crossing boundaries. Drivers can also spend over two hours on Highway 6 from Fruitvale to Nakusp without leaving the riding.

Cannings is well-known for “Riding the Riding” every summer, when the 67-year-old travels to every community on the map via bicycle.

Today’s issues:

Among the most topical local issues are wildfire preparedness, housing affordability and crime.

Konanz believes her voice will be more effective for the riding as a member of a mainstream political party, compared to Cannings who is a member of the fourth-place party.

Cannings is an environmentalist who focuses on preserving natural habitats and creating a greener future.

Many voters living near the proposed South Okanagan—Similkameen National Park Reserve are opposed to the project but none of the candidates are galvanizing the cause.


Do voters show up?

With 68,577 ballots cast from the riding’s 99,676 voters, there was a 68.8 per cent turnout in the 2019 election, slightly greater than the national average of 67 per cent.

Who to vote for:

Richard Cannings, New Democratic Party

Incumbent Richard Cannings is a biologist, birder and author with 12 published books, mostly about birds of British Columbia. He is also a former professor who taught for 17 years at University of British Columbia.
Under the leadership of former NDP leader Tom Mulcair, Cannings was appointed as the critic on post-secondary education issues and deputy critic of natural resources.

Cannings has a twin brother named Sydney, and his father, Stephen Cannings, was a well-known environmentalist.

Before first getting elected to federal politics in 2015, Cannings ran for the BCNDP in the 2013 provincial election, finishing second by five points to Liberal candidate Dan Ashton.

Cannings scored a major endorsement again in 2021 from environmentalist David Suzuki.

Vaccinated? Yes


Helena Konanz, Conservative party

Helena Konanz is back for round two, having narrowly lost to Cannings in 2019. Before entering federal politics, she served two terms on Penticton City Council from 2011 to 2018.

Back in the 1980s, Konanz was a professional tennis player. While still under her maiden name Manset, she reached the finals in NCAA Women’s Doubles, and later went on to play in the US Open and Wimbledon.

There is speculation that Konanz would have won the last election had it not been for the People’s Party, which is a break-away faction of the Conservatives. The local candidate’s 1,638 votes would have led Konanz to victory had they gone to her.

Konanz was recently endorsed by former Conservative Senator Nancy Greene Raine.

Vaccinated? Yes


Ken Robertson, Liberal

Ken is a parachute candidate who lives in Toronto, though he was born in Kamloops. Much of his life has revolved around healthcare services. At a young age, his twin brother was diagnosed with cancer so family moved off of their reserve to be closer to a hospital.

As an adult, two of Robertson’s children were diagnosed with autism, and to give them access to the best resources available, his family moved to Toronto over a decade ago.

Robertson is most aligned with the federal Liberal Party because, as an indigenous man, he said the Liberals have a more comprehensive and detailed plan for reconciliation than the other parties.

He considers climate change and indigenous rights issues to be the most pressing in this election.

Robertson, who is Living in Penticton during the campaign, said he will advocate for the autism community if elected, and his biggest goal is to implement a national autism strategy.

Despite the popular NDP and Conservative opponents he’s up against , Robertson believes he is a strong viable candidate in the riding.

Vaccinated? Yes

 

Tara Howse, Green

Howse stands for affordability, climate action and an end to the first-past-the-post system. After running in her first federal election in 2019, she was appointed to the Green Party’s shadow cabinet as the gender and rural economic development critic.

She wants to see decisions made in Ottawa better reflect the interests of average Canadians rather than corporations.

Tara has 15 years experience working in rural community economic development, she runs a business from home, and keeps her focus sharp on social justice issues involving gender and indigeneity.

Through her work, she finds solutions to housing challenges in rural areas, disaster recovery housing, and improving access to transportation. She earned a Master’s degree in interdisciplinary studies with a dual focus of global change and equity studies, bachelor’s in criminal justice, and certificates and training in crime prevention through environmental design.

Vaccinated? Yes according to one of her Facebook posts from June, but she found the question invasive and refused to answer when asked.


Sean Taylor, People’s Party

Sean Taylor grew up in Vernon and joined the Canadian military in 2002 as a member of the Calgary Highlanders. He worked most of his adult life in Alberta and served in Afghanistan from 2009 to 2010. Currently he is an emergency nurse employed with Interior Health and works at hospitals in Kelowna, Vernon, and Penticton.

Taylor's Twitter feed looks typical for a People’s Party candidate. So far in 2021 he’s written about standing up against medical tyranny, said it’s inevitable that party leader Maxime Bernier will become Prime Minister, and in one tweet he ridiculed the global pandemic, systemic racism, the climate emergency, and Donald Trump as “things you’re supposed to be afraid of.”

He believes next-generation nuclear and thermonuclear technologies will do a better job reducing Canada’s carbon footprint than wind and solar.

Vaccinated? Refused to answer, said the question was invasive.

READ MORE: All-candidates forum on environment planned for South Okanagan-West Kootenay


To contact a reporter for this story, email Dan Walton or call 250-488-3065 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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