Oddly enough, Kelowna to host B.C. NDP leadership debate

Former NDP agriculture minister Corky Evans, in a satiric "Gentleman Farmer" outfit Kelowna NDPers made him put on during a "Roast and Toast"on March 24, 2009 to salute Evans in honour of his upcoming retirement (Photo by Adrian Nieoczym for the Kelowna Capital News)

It’s kind of interesting and weird that the NDP is holding a leadership debate in Kelowna this evening with a social justice focus. This isn’t exactly NDP territory, nor is it really an activist hotbed.

The Okanagan is still quite a conservative region. The BC Liberals have swept the three Kelowna seats with more than 50 per cent of the vote every election since 1996. Before that, this was a Social Credit hotbed.

But Kelowna does have a small band of dedicated NDPers who hold the party’s three constituency associations together. They’re so dedicated that when popular Nelson-Creston MLA Corky Evans announced his retirement before the 2009 provincial election, he made a point of coming here to say goodbye on the evening the constituency associations held a joint nomination meeting.

I covered the meeting for the Capital News and Evans told me he liked the party members here because they were “true believers.”

Because the party has only the a long shot chance of winning a seat here, the constituency associations consist only of those who passionately believe in the party’s vision for a more just, less cutthroat society. NDP members in Kelowna are unlikely to advocate compromising that vision in order to grab power.

In that way, I guess bringing the social justice debate to Kelowna makes some sense.

The five leadership candidates will likely get a warn welcome from a relatively small crowd, but one that is engaged, cares deeply about the issues being debated.

And by making Kelowna the centre of the NDP universe, if just for a moment, the party is letting its members here now that they are appreciated and respected for their efforts in the face of daunting odds.

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