Race for local Conservative nomination influenced by party leader Andrew Scheer - InfoNews

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Race for local Conservative nomination influenced by party leader Andrew Scheer

Renee Wasylyk and Tracy Gray, two high-profile candidates for the Conservative nomination for Kelowna-Lake Country.
Image Credit: SUBMITTED
February 21, 2019 - 5:30 PM

KELOWNA - If it was up to party leader Andrew Scheer, it seems, Renee Wasylyk would not only be the Conservative Party of Canada’s candidate in Kelowna-Lake Country but the Okanagan’s first ever cabinet minister.

But it’s not up to him to choose between high profile candidates Wasylyk and Tracy Gray, a former city councillor also running for the nomination. That decision will be made by local residents that both women are scrambling to sign up as members by the party’s March 9 deadline.

So, what role does Scheer play in all of this?

“It was actually Andrew Scheer who asked me to run,” Wasylyk told iNFOnews.ca. “He flew into town and we met for about four hours. He asked me the question, 'are you content to meet with me again three-and-a-half years from now, knowing you could have done something to change the trajectory of your community and you choose not to?'

“I told him I’m not going to be content to be a backbencher, to be quiet.' He said, 'no, I want the first ever minister to come out of the Okanagan. I need strength and I need a voice and are you okay to have your community not have that?' And he knew Tracy Gray had wanted to run.”

That meeting was April 3, 2018, she said.

Gray said she also met with Scheer last spring and “he certainly encouraged me to run.”

The Kelowna-Lake Country Conservative riding association recently announced that March 9 was the final day for signing up new members. It has not announced a date for the vote, which is expected in late March or early April.

Wasylyk said there are currently about 1,400 members in the riding. Gray said she got the list of members a couple of days ago but would not say how many people were on it, leaving it to the riding association to release that information.

This race is about who will run for the Conservatives in the fall federal election.

The riding was strongly Conservative until 2015 when Stephen Fuhr won it for the Liberals, defeating incumbent Conservative Ron Cannan.

Wasylyk is best known as Chief Executive Officer of Troika Developments, which was most recently in the news after Kelowna City Council turned down its application for a major residential development on Diamond Mountain, south of the Glenmore dump.

Gray was a member of that city council and was the only incumbent who chose not to run for re-election in last fall’s municipal election so she could focus on her campaign for the Conservative nomination.

While both women considered running for some time, it was Wasylyk who officially declared her intentions first, announcing on Aug. 8, 2018. Gray followed on Sept. 6.

“It was purposeful when I announced and it really had no relevance to who else was running,” Gray told iNFOnews.ca. “I wanted to wait until close to when my term was ending on city council because I really didn’t want this to overshadow the work I was doing on council and I really wanted to be focused on all the work that still had to be done on council and regional district and all the other commitments I had.”

Gray would not comment directly on Wasylyk’s statement that she had actually been recruited by Scheer.

“I’m not sure what her reasons for running were,” Gray said. “My reasons for starting to think about running had to do with frustrations with the current Liberal government, with their policies, and seeing how they were going to be harming families and businesses.”

Gray studied party policies, attended its National Convention and a policy conference in preparing, she said, not only to win the nomination but also to win the election next fall.

As for her reasons for running – other than being recruited by Scheer — Wasylyk cited her long-standing interest in running when the time was right and stressed her leadership abilities.

“For me, it doesn’t matter what you put me into or onto, I’m going to find a way to build consensus, and create a unified voice,” she said. “For me, that leadership component is very, very critical in who we send as an MP. Can that person create great ideas using all the community and listening and hearing and then can they advocate for us in a really powerful and strong way?”

And, with the support of Scheer, she believes she can get things done.

“You have to have great ideas married with influence,” Wasylyk said. “Having that level of influence is necessary to impact change. That’s one of the reasons it’s so important, to me, that I have the belief of the leader because, if I don’t have the belief of the leader, I’m dead in the water as far as affecting change.”

She also cited a number of committees that she has sat on, often as chair or co-chair. Those are listed on her web site at reneeokanagan.com.

Gray spoke differently about her role as an MP.

“When you look at the reason I chose to run, when you look at my experience, I’m here to serve and I’m here to be a strong voice for the people in Kelowna-Lake Country,” she said. “A lot of the work I’m doing isn’t just about this nomination. I’ve been focussing on what you need to do in order to be effective in the role and also what you need to do in winning the election.”

Gray’s credentials and stand on issues can be seen at votetracygray.com.


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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