The next federal election may be a year away but developer Renee Wasylyk wants to be part of it.
Wasylyk, who has built her Kelowna-based development company Troika into a Western Canadian enterprise, is expected to announce later today she will seek the federal Conservative nomination in Kelowna-Lake Country.
The move is a little surprising given the overload of public support she has been giving the B.C. Liberal Party of late. Whether it was appearing at forums organized by local Liberal MLAs to berate B.C.’s NDP government for its controversial speculation tax, speaking out in opposition to a possible change to proportional representation or being featured in recent B.C. Liberal Party advertisements, Wasylyk has quickly become a local poster gal of sorts for the provincial party that bills itself as the “free enterprise alternative.”
So, many expected she may bide her time and look to succeed one of the two incumbent Liberal MLAs in the Central Okanagan and seek a seat in the Legislature in the next provincial election, if one came up for grabs.
But with former Tory MP Ron Cannan ruling out a rematch with man who defeated him in the 2015 federal election, Liberal Stephen Fuhr, there’s a possible opening for a federal seat in this former Conservative stronghold. After all, Fuhr is the first Liberal to hold the seat since 1972.
But the times, they are a changin’. As Fuhr proved—in large part with the help of a wave of support for the Liberals and disdain for the Conservatives—the Central Okanagan is no longer a place where the mere designation of “Conservative” gets you elected.
If Wasylyk wins the nomination she will likely be a formidable opponent for Fuhr, in large part because she is a new breed of Conservative— a moderate. Her brand of Tory is not the same as former leader Stephen Harper’s brand. The question is, can she maintain that and still win the support of local Conservatives who, in the past, have tended to sit farther to the right on the political spectrum than closer to the centre?
By launching her campaign now, Wasylyk is diving into the world of federal politics just as civic election races are getting underway in B.C. It might muddy the waters a little but, whether she realizes it or not, she’s actually taking a page from Fuhr’s political playbook. When he decided to run for the Liberal nomination in the 2015 election, he also started early. And, in the end, the long period of legwork paid off for him.
So the potential of a Fuhr-Wasylyk 2019 contest—with an NDP challenger thrown in for good measure—is intriguing. The two come across more alike than either will admit once the political gloves come off. Both seem like moderates and are socially liberal. One has a business background and the other a military background. Conservatives like both of those. Both attended evangelical Christian universities, but neither is particularly strident in expressing any religious point of view.
So, if Wasylyk wins the Conservative nomination, the Central Okanagan may be in for something it has not seen in recent memory—a Liberal and a Tory who are more alike than different.
Alistair Waters is the assistant editor of the Capital News.