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Conservative race shaping up in new federal riding of South Okanagan-West Kootenay
The Conservative nomination for the new federal riding of South Okanagan-West Kootenay (SOWK) will most likely face a vote as more potential candidates step forward.
Stephen Hill, the Conservative candidate for B.C. Southern Interior in the 2011 election, says he has now filed nomination papers, even though the nomination process hasn’t officially opened.
At the end of November, Penticton real estate agent Marshall Neufeld announced he planned to run.
The former assistant to Stockwell Day, who once led the Canadian Alliance, has the endorsement of his old boss and some of his campaign team.
At least one other person said to be considering running didn’t wish to make a public statement at this time.
Hill, 51, said that although his campaign has had a “soft launch,” the party still needs to open the nomination process and fix a date for nomination meetings throughout the new riding.
Hill said he and other would-be nomination candidates will be interviewed by a committee, and their backgrounds will be checked through such measures as credit checks and police reports. The nomination could still be several months away, he said.
Hill said he came close in 2011 when he finished second with 19,273 votes, but lost to NDP incumbent Alex Atamanenko who had 25,206 votes. Atamaneko only won on his second attempt, Hill notes.
Atamanenko is not seeking re-election this time, and the new boundaries for SOWK include the Conservative stronghold of Penticton. Several strong NDP communities in the Kootenays are no longer in the new riding.
The biggest issue motivating Hill to run, he said, is economic development.
Hill, from Rossland, points to the decline of schools in his community since he moved there in 1994, as the younger population has left due to lack of economic opportunities.
“In my daughter’s class of high school there were 110 kids and only 10 of them are in the local area,” said Hill. “A hundred of them have left.”
He acknowledges the Okanagan hasn’t been as badly hit economically as the Kootenays, but still pointed to empty retail space, manufacturing closures and a lack of job prospects.
“The majority of communities in our riding are the oldest in British Columbia and it’s not because it’s older people living there,” said Hill. “It’s because a bunch of the young people aren’t.”
Hill is president of a financial services business with offices in Trail and Grand Forks. He has degrees in business and politics.
Originally from Peterborough, Ontario, he also studied in Halifax before moving to Rossland in 1994.
He is married to Carol and has two grown children. His daughter, Molly Hill, will be his campaign manager.
The riding association was formed in the fall, but it wasn’t formally recognized by the party until January.