Federal Conservative Party leader Andrew Scheer says he is confident the South Okanagan—West Kootenay riding will turn blue for its second federal election in 2019.
Scheer was in the South Okanagan for the second time since taking on the Conservative leadership in May last year, spending time in Oliver and in Penticton following a stop in Kelowna.
During his stop in Penticton, following a meeting with Osoyoos Indian Band Chief Clarence Louie at Bad Tattoo Brewing, Scheer spoke with the Western News for a short one-on-one interview.
Currently an NDP riding, Scheer said he felt the Conservatives could turn the riding in their favour for the 2019 election.
“I’ve heard a lot today of the disappointment that the NDP supported the Liberal attacks on small business. This whole area is full of entrepreneurs. Many, many people here have jobs thanks to local businesses,” Scheer said. “A lot of people told me that they voted NDP last time and watching them vote with the Liberals on this very important issue, they’re coming back to the Conservative Party.”
Since coming to the Okanagan, Scheer said he has been hearing from people on what he called the “attack on small businesses,” referring to the small business tax the federal government announced in the summer.
He added that there have been concerns surrounding the local fruit industry, after China levied a tariff on U.S. fruit. That has sparked concerns among local fruit growers that the U.S. industry will begin dumping fruit in Canada, Scheer said, which could drop the price of fruit in the country.
“(We) talked about housing affordability, talking about the wine industry and some of the inter-provincial trade barriers,” he said.
“Right now I’m meeting with Chief Clarence Louie talking about some of the ways that the federal government can be improving their relationship with the First Nations community, making sure that economic development is a priority as well.”
Scheer had been in Oliver the night before, and said he had heard from locals on the issue of the South Okanagan National Park, of which local member of Parliament Richard Cannings, NDP, has come out in favour.
“I’ve been told that the previous government did not go forward with this as a national park. It’s been on the list for some time, but that the previous government did not proceed,” Scheer said.
“A lot of local concerns about the impact this would have on local property owners, ranchers, the accessibility, the fact that there’s a helicopter school that employs people in the region not, now, having access to that,” he said.
“And the fact that this seems to be going ahead by this Liberal government without any kind of local consultation.”
On that issue, Cannings has also expressed concern — while he is in favour of the park, he suggested that the Liberals should be doing more consultation work on the ground.
“The one thing I do hear is that there’s a lot of anxiety.”