Helena Konanz, a Penticton city councillor, believes the time is right for her to make a bid to become the Conservative Member of Parliament in South Okanagan-West Kootenay (SOWK).
Konanz, 57, was recently acclaimed as the federal party’s candidate, and she will seek to replace current MP Richard Cannings in the October 2019 federal election.
This is not the first time she’s stepped forward to announce her interest in the position. In November 2013, she announced she would seek the nomination, but withdrew two weeks later after deciding the time wasn’t right.
“Now my kids are off to university, and I think it’s a better time for all of us,” she said. “I’ve been on city council now for seven years and the regional district for four years and I feel like I am actually better prepared for the position.”
Besides realizing in 2013 that it was a big commitment at a time when her children were still in high school, she was also deterred because it appeared then that Marshall Neufeld was in a better position to win the seat.
Neufeld was defeated by Cannings in the October 2015 election by nearly 500 votes, but he planned to run again in 2019. Neufeld then announced in August he was withdrawing after several personal episodes caused him to reflect.
Asked why she thought the nomination ended in an acclamation, Konanz said she thinks some people were unwilling to go against Neufeld because he was a strong candidate.
After she announced her own plans to seek the nomination in June, she put together a campaign team and blanketed the area to gain support. That strength discouraged others from stepping forward, even after Neufeld withdrew.
“I was expecting more people to step forward, and we were ready for that,” she said. “I think maybe people shied away from running because we were already in a position of readiness for the nomination process.”
Konanz won endorsements from such federal Conservatives and provincial Liberals as MP Dan Albas, former MP Tom Siddon, MLA Dan Ashton, and former MLAs Bill Barisoff, Rick Thorpe and Jim Hewitt.
As well as having more years of experience behind her as a municipal councillor, Konanz is in the final stage of completing a master’s degree in political science at University of British Columbia Okanagan.
The former tennis professional, who is originally from California, is married to South Okanagan native Adam Konanz. They opened a chiropractic business 25 years ago.
Konanz said her experience working with the provincial and federal levels of government made her realize that she can also work at the federal level on the issues she’s been involved with locally – notably promoting business growth and small business.
She’s also worked on expanding Okanagan College.
She plans to spend the coming months travelling through SOWK to find out about the issues that most concern people.
“I’ve spent a lot of time in my years on regional district and council meeting with people in the South Okanagan and Penticton, but not really through the Kootenays,” she said. “So I need to find out – I really want to see a grassroots campaign. I want to have a grassroots representation, so I want to find out what is important to our citizens throughout the riding.”
She said she won’t assume that something that’s a national issue is necessarily top of mind for local citizens.