NDP nominees vie for candidacy

Mona Mattei
By Mona Mattei
March 28th, 2013

Voting is already underway to choose the provincial New Democratic Party (NDP) representative for the Boundary-Similkameen riding, but candidates continue to meet with party members hoping to come out on top.

The three candidates for the nomination are Rhonda Bruce of Oliver, Brian Taylor, current mayor of Grand Forks and Sam Hancheroff, school trustee in Okanagan Similkameen. Each candidate brings a different set of skills to the job, should they be nominated.

Mail-in ballots are already out to the about 300 members of the riding’s NDP, but the final vote will take place on Saturday, Apr. 6 at a member’s meeting in Oliver.

Taylor, an experienced leader at the city council and regional district tables in Grand Forks, has run for provincial office before. This time, he said, he’s got better experience behind him after three terms in office. Taylor worked in non-profit management in social services and health care for many years prior to semi-retirement when he returned to his love of politics.

“I’ve been diligently moving from community to community knocking on people’s doors. It’s going well, I’m optimistic,” said Taylor.

“There are a number of things out there that I feel are resonating with people throughout the whole riding. In particular: water issues, concern about water conservation, the environment. But the big one is health care.”

Taylor said that the distance between hospitals for rural residents is one of the biggest issues he’s hearing. “We can’t provide all services everywhere, but how we move people from service to service has to be a real consideration,” added Taylor.

Bruce said that her campaign for the nomination is on track despite the short time frame that the candidates had to outreach to the members.

“Since the last election I have talked a lot to people about why the Boundary Similkameen would benefit from a NDP government,” said Bruce. “Some of the key issues I have heard are health care, seniors care, access to higher education and jobs.  My strength is health care and seniors care. With this last budget we will see more cuts to health care. In my opinion this will directly affect people living in rural communities, like the Boundary-Similkameen.”

Bruce has spent four years as a labour leader talking about these issues. She was part of an elected team that represented over 43,000 health care workers in negotiations. She participated in the Governor General’s 2013 leadership conference about communities and sustainability and has been an active community volunteer.

Life-long Boundary-Similkameen resident, Hancheroff can boast roots in both Grand Forks and the Okanagan. A trustee on local water districts and the school district, retired school teacher Hancheroff believes his experience lends him insight into the needs of the regions.

“I’ve been contacting the NDP members to talk with them personally if possible. The other thing that I’m doing is setting up meetings to have the members come to meet me,” explained Hancheroff in describing his campaign efforts.

“The one thing that I’ve heard from the Boundary-Similkameen is that we live in these valleys and the reason we live here is that it’s so beautiful… People want to make sure that it is protected. If we don’t start protecting eco-systems or riparian areas, pretty soon they’re going to be damaged to such and extent that people won’t be coming any more. We need to maintain a kind of delicate balance between a healthy environment and comfortable living space in our communities.”

Watershed protection, updating of land use policies, endangered species protection and the problem of inequality of wealth that Hancheroff believes impacts on the ability of residents to access health care or seniors care are all hot topics he has heard in his campaign.

“There’s a big gap developing between the very wealthy and the middle class,” Hancheroff noted. “A number of years ago (people) worked one job, they got a good wage for it. Now they have to work two jobs to get the same wage. And now both husband and wife have to work. Because the gap is substantially growing and is creating a problem for government and revenues are dropping.”

Hancheroff added that he likes working in collaboration with his colleagues to the best interests of the riding, although he has not run for this level of government before.

The race will be on once the candidate is chosen, and the Boundary-Similkameen is not a shoe-in for the NDP. The provincial election takes place on May 14.

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