By James Miller
Special to OsoyoosToday
With her family by her side and several prominent politicians behind her, Helena Konanz announced Thursday she will challenge for the Conservative nomination in the South Okanagan-West Kootenay riding.
“I offer an exciting new vision for the Conservative party and will work toward building a stronger Canada,” Ms. Konanz told a room of 100 supporters at the Penticton Lakeside Resort.
Ms. Konanz said, as a small businessperson, she will fight the small-business tax.
“They (Liberals) basically accused small business owners of being tax cheats, and of not paying our fair share. We Konanzes are a family of entrepreneurs. We understand what it’s like to be threatened by government policies that undermine small business.”
She was introduced by Dan Albas, member of Parliament in the neighbouring Central Okanagan Similkameen Nicola riding.
“I’ve had a very positive working relationship with Helena right from when she first wanted to get involved with public life,” Mr. Albas said in an interview. “Many Conservatives in this area believe what the party needs for this area is a new and fresh face.
Mr. Albas did not endorse a nomination hopeful in 2013 and remained neutral. He believes Ms. Konanz is capable of winning the 2019 election. He said the Conservatives have a lot of female talent in caucus — rhyming off a long list of names — and believes Konanz would be a positive addition.
Also on stage were former federal cabinet minister Tom Siddon and retired MLAs Rick Thorpe and Jim Hewitt. In the crowd was Mayor Andrew Jakubeit, along with several members of city council, the Okanagan Skaha school board and the Regional District of Okanagan Similkameen board.
The management team of the Penticton Vees, where Ms. Konanz’s husband has been the volunteer chiropractor for 20 years, was also present.
In her press kit, Ms. Konanz received endorsements from Penticton MLA Dan Ashton and his predecessor Bill Barisoff.
Ms. Konanz was first elected to Penticton city council in 2011, finishing second overall of more than 20 challengers in what was her first attempt at public office. (The top six are elected.) She was re-elected in 2014, third overall. She announced in April she would not seek re-election to council.
During her time on council she spent four years as a Penticton representative on the RDOS and also championed youth causes, including teen suicide and depression.
Ms. Konanz is a graduate of UCLA in political science. She was a member of the women’s tennis team that won the NCAA championship and once played a charity match against Billie Jean King.
She is presently completing a Masters degree at UBC Okanagan in political science.
The date of a Conservative nomination meeting has not been set, but is anticipated to be held in the fall.
Marshall Neufeld, who lost the 2013 election to NDPer Richard Cannings by nearly 5,000 votes, is the only other declared candidate for the Conservative nomination.
When asked if she can defeat Mr. Cannings, Ms. Konanz said, “I am confident. The Conservative message is very important now. The NDP is having issues with their party and with their leader. We don’t want to be represented by a party that might implode.”
The federal Liberals and Green party have yet to hold nomination meetings. It’s anticipated that Connie Denesiuk, who finished a strong third in 2013, will again seek the Liberal nomination.
James Miller is editor of the Penticton Herald. OsoyoosToday and the Herald share an informal editorial use agreement.