A former city councillor is the new Conservative candidate for the Kelowna-Lake Country riding.
Tracy Gray was chosen Saturday night, after Conservative party members showed up in droves to cast their ballots and created a line that extended down the hallway at the Ramada Hotel and Conference Centre.
Gray said it was a number of factors that led her to win the candidate race, including living in the community for a long time and spending months with boots on the ground, visiting businesses and door knocking.
“All of that leg work, we knew it was going to be a marathon,” she said.
With the recent events regarding former attorney general Jody Wilson-Raybould, and Prime Minster Justin Trudeau, Gray said it may have people questioning the government and that people are losing confidence, but anything could happen.
There are still people that find we when we’re door knocking that are very staunch party people regardless of what’s going on,” she said.
Gray and Troika Development’s CEO Renee Wasylyk battled for the nomination and, according to the party’s electoral district association president, both women have helped grow party membership numbers.
Ernie Webber said heading into Saturday’s nomination vote, his riding association has the largest number of members it has had “in several elections.”
Unlike past Tory nomination meetings in the riding—the last contested one was in 2005 when Ron Cannan won the nomination—Saturday’s vote did not feature a traditional convention-style gathering.
The federal Conservatives held the riding prior to 2015, when Liberal Stephen Fuhr defeated three-term Cannan. Fuhr was the first Liberal elected in the riding in 45 years.
“I’ve been here since the 90s and I’ve never seen a turnout like this,” Webber said.
He said the party’s prospects of winning a seat in the next election are looking “extremely good,” with hard work from the local candidates and with voters who are frustrated with the Liberal party.
Webber said the presentation of the campaign during the last election in 2015 from Ottawa “didn’t strike well with a lot of us, so we didn’t put the same amount of energy as we did in the past, however now the information that we’re getting in Ottawa in back in the Conservative line.”
He said during the last election, messages coming from the top were “harsh” and “as far as I’m concerned there was a couple things missing for British Columbia.”
There’s a new platform that will be publicly launched next month, he said.
Wasylyk and Gray did not debate each at any point during the nomination campaign and last-minute attempts, first by the riding association and then by Wasylyk, failed.
Webber said the riding association dropped its plans to hold a forum because both candidates were given updated Kelowna-Lake Country party membership lists before the riding association got them so it was felt the candidates could contact members directly.
Wasylyk then announced she would organize a forum and invited Gray but Gray declined, saying she believed the forum contravened Elections Canada rules, something Wasylyk denied.
It’s just part of it, I’ve always just tried to rise above. I do have some political experience so I just try to stay on my own course,” Gray said.
The next federal election is slated for October, and the winner of the Conservative nomination in the riding will challenge Fuhr in the election. The NDP in the riding has yet to nominate a candidate.
— With files from Alistair Waters
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