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NDP seeks candidate to replace MLA Larson
The New Democratic Party (NDP) in the Boundary-Similkameen riding has started its search for a candidate to take on MLA Linda Larson in the provincial election 14 months from now.
As of yet, no candidate for the nomination has formally announced, but two high-profile people are considering it, and former Osoyoos Mayor Stu Wells hasn’t ruled it out.
Allan Patton, former Area C (Rural Oliver) director with the Regional District of Okanagan-Similkameen (RDOS), said he’s seriously considering seeking the nomination.
The other potential candidate said she’s not yet ready to go public.
Darwin Benson, chair of the nomination committee with the Boundary-Similkameen NDP riding association, said letters went out earlier this month to party members asking if they would consider running or know someone who might.
Prior to that, his committee approached five potential candidates, he said.
Three said they would not, but the two are seriously considering it.
Besides Patton, the other person, who is from the Boundary region, said she hadn’t yet made a decision and wasn’t ready to announce.
There has also been buzz recently that former Osoyoos mayor Stu Wells might throw his hat into the ring, but Wells is non-committal.
“I am not planning to run for an elected provincial position,” Wells said. “I have raised my profile as a result of the under-representation and lack of support our current MLA has exhibited to our town.”
Wells has been outspoken recently against a possible school closure in Osoyoos and before that in support of a national park. He has butted heads with Larson on both issues.
Although Wells says he is not a member of any political party, observers noticed he appeared to be hitting it off with NDP Education Critic Rob Fleming, who was in Osoyoos March 8 to meet with members of the community on the school closure issue.
Wells didn’t shut the door on a run for provincial political office either.
“I have knocked around the political arenas for most of my adult life and know enough to never say ‘never,’” he said, adding cryptically, “If we look here at our end of the valley, sometimes there are strange forces at work and play.”
This would not be the first time Wells has considered running provincially for the NDP.
A party source said former B.C. cabinet minister Moe Sihota tried to woo Wells to run for the NDP in the 2013 election.
Wells took a while to consider it, but turned down Sihota in the end.
Wells acknowledged this story is true.
In the end, the party chose Marji Basso as the candidate, but she stepped down in mysterious circumstances less than four months before the vote.
The NDP then replaced her with Okanagan Falls school trustee Sam Hancheroff a month before the election.
He was defeated by Larson, who was herself nominated late in the game after former MLA John Slater was removed as the B.C. Liberal candidate.
Benson believes the NDP should be able to win the riding, noting that Larson has made herself unpopular.
“She is a nothing,” he said. “All Linda Larson does is go around the riding handing out cheques. Here was a big issue in Osoyoos the other night about the school shutting down and she didn’t even show.”
Hancheroff said he is not interested in running again.
“I didn’t want to go last time,” he said. “People asked me and I went through it. There just wasn’t enough time, but it was a great experience for me.”
He said he is busy with a small vineyard and with family matters including a mother-in-law who is not well and the desire to spend time with his grandchildren. He also enjoys being a school trustee.
Hancheroff allows that if the NDP ends up without a candidate, his arm could be twisted.
“It could be,” he said. “I’m not interested, but you never know what happens down the road.”
Patton said he would make a decision “sooner rather than later.”
He wants to gauge how much support he would get first, especially considering his blunt style in his nine years as an RDOS director.
“I probably made as many enemies as I did friends when I was with the regional district,” Patton admits. “It’s just my style. Maybe I don’t have that desire for people to love me. I just want to make sure things work, things are right and we get things done. I’m more of a policy person.”
Patton said another consideration is that as an apple grower he cares deeply about stopping the genetically modified Arctic Apple.
He’s worried about the spread of pollen contaminating non-GMO (genetically modified organism) apples.
His decision on running will be influenced by whether the NDP supports his position on this issue.
The two other local issues he’s concerned about are the possible closure of an Osoyoos school and the long-running national park issue.
“I can’t see closing down something so major as a secondary school,” said Patton. “It seems beyond me. It would obviously be a huge impact to the town of Osoyoos … a town the size of Osoyoos has to have schools.”
Patton, who attended the March 8 public consultation meeting on the school closures in Osoyoos, said it was a mistake for Larson to skip it.
“I think Linda has dropped the ball on that one,” he said. “I know she’s popular in this area and it will be a tough fight for me to beat her, but I think I’m up for it.”
Patton said he was strictly neutral on the national park issue as an RDOS director, even leaving the table during a vote. And he would continue this neutrality, trying to bring the sides together and get the issue resolved once and for all if he became MLA.
He criticizes Larson for picking one side – opposing the park – and for trying to hide information from the public.
Larson’s handling of the school closure issue has also prompted some upset parents to discuss trying to remove her before the May 2017 election.
They have been turning to social media to suggest a campaign to recall the MLA.
The requirements that must be met to recall an MLA, however, are very difficult and it has never been successful.
Signatures from 40 per cent of electors in the entire constituency must be gathered in 60 days. In many cases, the required number of signatures exceeds total voter turnout of the last election.
A successful recall would trigger a by-election, with the result that a new MLA would serve less than a year before the May 9, 2017 general election.