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Would-be candidates submit papers for federal Conservative nomination as two bow out
As the deadline looms to seek the federal Conservative nomination in South Okanagan-West Kootenay (SOWK), one candidate has withdrawn and another stepped forward briefly before having second thoughts.
Stephen Hill, from Rossland, the Conservative candidate for B.C. Southern Interior in 2011, announced last week he is no longer seeking the nomination due to the timing of the nomination meetings.
Meanwhile, Jason Cox, a Penticton businessman, said last week he was seeking the nomination, but early this week he had second thoughts and announced he would not be running this time.
The deadline for candidates to submit nomination papers is 2 p.m. Pacific time on Thursday, June 26.
Marshall Neufeld, a Penticton real estate agent, has already submitted papers and has confirmed he is running.
Rick de Jong, a West Kelowna municipal councillor, said Monday that he has submitted his papers and is waiting to hear from the party if he is accepted as a potential candidate.
SOWK is the new federal electoral district that roughly overlaps with the present district of B.C. Southern Interior, currently represented by MP Alex Atamanenko of the NDP.
Atamanenko is not running in the next election, expected in 2015.
The new SOWK riding adds the Conservative stronghold of Penticton, while losing NDP strongholds in the east, such as Nelson.
Hill, who has been actively campaigning throughout the spring and has been advertising in newspapers throughout the riding, said he was ready for a nomination in the spring or fall, but was not expecting the party to set a date in late July.
The new date, he said, conflicts with plans to move his family’s household in mid-July and to open a new office for his business.
“I never expected them to call the nomination in July or August,” said Hill. “If I wanted to end up divorced or with a failed business, I would run for the Conservative Party. I’m completely heartbroken. It’s devastating.”
Hill said he was in Toronto interviewing possible campaign managers when he learned of the July nomination date.
Nominations will take place during the week of July 20 and there will be several meetings in different parts of the riding, said Al Wait, chair of the SOWK Conservative nomination committee.
Precise dates and times of meetings in each location have not yet been set, Wait said.
The July meeting dates also caught Wait by surprise. He and others were expecting a nomination date in September, he said.
Asked how the date was chosen, Hill said: “I’m still trying to figure that one out.”
Hill said a national party official prior to the date being set phoned him and during the conversation he told the official that the worst timing would be a nomination in July or August. The official appeared to agree with him.
Asked if he thought the date might have been set to favour another candidate, Hill avoided a direct answer.
“I don’t want to be a conspiracy theorist,” he said. “That’s not for me to say. I don’t know, but it would be a good story, wouldn’t it? I got hit at the absolute possible worst time.”
SOWK, however, is just one of many Canadian ridings where the Conservatives are stepping up nominations, prompting speculation that the Stephen Harper government could call an election ahead of the fixed date of Oct. 19, 2015 under the Canada Elections Act.
Nor would it be the first time the timing of Conservative nominations has been controversial in this area.
In March 2011, the nomination deadline in Okanagan-Coquihalla was set for just six days after then MP Stockwell Day announced he wouldn’t be running again.
Neufeld, a former Day staffer, got his papers in on time, but Cox did not. Penticton councillor Dan Albas subsequently won the nomination.
“It was a very, very, very tight window,” said Cox. “We had basically 72 hours to get the nomination forms in and I didn’t make it.”
Last week Cox said he intended to file papers before this Thursday’s deadline. He contacted the Osoyoos Times late Tuesday afternoon, however, after the paper was sent to press, and said he had reconsidered because of other commitments. Cox said he may run in a future election.
Cox, 40, is divorced and has two teenage daughters. He works through the Penticton office of Investors Group and also owns two businesses, a beer and wine making shop called the People’s Crafthouse and a fitness supplements store called Fit City Supplements.
Cox has served as president of the Penticton Wine Country Chamber of Commerce twice, in 2009 and 2011. He is currently an elected director of the board of the B.C. Chamber of Commerce. Cox ran unsuccessfully for Penticton city council in 2011.
Neufeld, who has already been green-lighted as a potential candidate, as been active in the Conservative Party for a decade and worked as Day’s senior parliamentary assistant in Ottawa.
Day has expressed his support for Neufeld and several former leading members of Day’s campaign team are working for Neufeld.