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Courtenay councillor Leonard wins Vancouver Island North nomination bid
"It's time to say goodbye to Stephen Harper and John Duncan."
Ronna-Rae Leonard's words were warmly welcomed by those attending the NDP nomination meeting Sunday as she became the party's Vancouver Island North candidate for the next federal election.
The Courtenay city councillor garnered 169 votes to defeat Port McNeill town councillor Shirley Ackland (97 votes) and former Courtenay city councillor Erik Eriksson (48 votes) on the first ballot.
Of 346 registered voters, 283 voted by mail ballot and 65 cast their votes Sunday at the Native Sons Hall. (Two votes were returned).
Leonard said the HST, pensions for seniors and protecting the coast from oil spills will be key issues in the next federal election campaign, which many speculate will be called this spring.
"I will work to make life more affordable for people, generate jobs and protect the wild salmon that are so much a part of our culture," she said. "I will work to strengthen public health care by training and hiring more doctors and nurses and investing in home support for our seniors," Leonard said.
"Just like daylight savings, its time for a change. It's time to say goodbye to Stephen Harper. It's time to say goodbye to John Duncan. With me as your candidate, together we will spring ahead to a brighter future for Vancouver Island North."
Citing examples such as the HST, the environment and the budget, all three candidates agreed the Harper Conservatives have lost the taxpayers' trust.
"People here were upset when John Duncan, along with every other Conservative and Liberal MP, voted to impose the HST on British Columbians," Leonard said. "This is the most blatant example of how the Conservatives have turned their backs on the people of B.C. That's why I am so proud that every single New Democrat MP stood up and voted against the HST."
Guest speaker Peter Julian, MP for Burnaby-New Westminster, said Leonard will join a proud tradition of New Democrat MPs from Vancouver Island North.
"I am very excited about the nomination of Ronna-Rae Leonard," said Julian. "She will make a great addition to Jack Layton's team and I look forward to working with her to make a real difference for British Columbians."
Julian also saluted Catherine Bell of Courtenay, whom he described as one of the hardest-working MPs in Parliament during her 2006-08 term as Vancouver Island North MP.
Julian said the federal NDP is poised to win more seats in B.C. than ever before.
"In B.C. it is a contest between the Harper Conservatives and the Layton New Democrats," he said. "People know that we're the only alternative to stop a Stephen Harper majority."
Roger Kishi, president of the Vancouver Island North NDP, notes Vancouver Island North is a swing riding, with the past three federal elections being tightly fought contests between the New Democrats and Conservatives.