By Cam Fortems
Kamloops This Week
As co-chair of the B.C. Liberal election campaign, Kamloops-South Thompson MLA Todd Stone is encouraging as many of the party’s 45 incumbents as possible to run again next May.
So far, he counts 38 — but next-door neighbour Terry Lake is not one of them.
The MLA for Kamloops-North Thompson and B.C.’s minister of health has told the party he will wait until the end of summer before making his decision.
In an interview, Lake said together with wife, Lisa, he will take time to determine whether to return to Thompson Rivers University, where the veterinarian teaches animal health, or run a third time for the governing party.
“I’ve had discussions with the premier. She [Christy Clark] indicates she wants people [existing MLAs] to make a decision by the end of summer . . .” Lake said.
“We really need time away from the frenetic pace of the [legislative] session, especially in a large ministry like this, to put things in perspective.”
Lake said when he first ran, he planned on a maximum of two terms. If he serves a third term, his position at the university will not be held for him.
A Liberal member not authorized to speak for the party said the only member known within party circles to be mulling a campaign should Lake decide not to run is Steven Puhallo, executive director of the North Shore Business Improvement Association.
Contacted recently, Puhallo — the party’s constituency president in Kamloops-North Thompson and a former Liberal staff member— said “out of respect” members are awaiting Lake’s decision.
“I’ve heard that rumour, too,” he said of his name surfacing as a potential replacement.
“Terry is a great MLA and we really hope he’ll run again.”
In either city riding — Kamloops-North Thompson and Kamloops-South Thompson — Stone is the only known candidate for next May’s provincial election.
New Democrat representatives said they are searching for candidates, but no one has stepped forward.
Bill Sundhu, who represented the party in last October’s federal election, said his primary interest is national politics. While he hasn’t ruled anything out, he’s not planning to run at this time.
Michael Crawford, who ran federally for New Democrats in a number of campaigns and sits on the board of the provincial constituency association in Kamloops-North Thompson, said there are plans to have a candidate in place by early fall.
“We’re probably looking at a half-dozen people who have expressed interest,” he said.
So far, however, none has started to organize or sell memberships. Under party rules, new members must be declared 90 days before a nomination meeting. If the party holds its meeting at the end of September, prospective candidates would only have the next month to sign up supporters.
Peter Northcott, president of the Kamloops-South Thompson constituency association, said organizers have started a candidate search, but haven’t put forward any names to the party.
He acknowledged the NDP faces a formidable opponent in the popular Stone, who also benefits from the last redrawing of riding boundaries that make his seat much safer for the B.C. Liberals.
In 2013, Stone won his seat by 5,000 votes, while Lake won by 3,000 votes. The Kamloops-North Thompson riding is traditionally thought of as a swing riding and a bellwether for the rest of the province.
Crawford acknowledged the party faces the prospect of facing two senior cabinet ministers if Lake decides to run again.
“We know we have to find an excellent candidate and run an excellent campaign,” Crawford said.
Green party representative Matt Greenwood said organizers are putting together a campaign search committee. In 2013, the party did not field candidates in either riding.
“We’re not going to be sitting this one out,” Greenwood said.