B.C. political parties race to nominate candidates as 2024 election nears

By Alec Lazenby February 12, 2024

BC United Leader Kevin Falcon with members of his caucus (BC United)

True to his word, Conservative Leader John Rustad has burst out of the gate when it comes to nominating candidates for the upcoming provincial election. The party has already announced 37 candidates — about 40 per cent of a full slate for this year’s election.

In December, the leader of B.C.’s upstart fourth party said he hoped to have the Conservatives ready for a March election, refusing to take Premier David Eby at his word that he will stick to the scheduled election date in October.

“We’re going to be competing in every corner of this province, and I think people will be surprised at the number of candidates that we get elected from across this province,” Rustad told BC Today in a year-end interview.

Most of those putting their names forward for the Conservatives have little political experience. Small business owners, real estate agents, radio hosts and doctors upset with continued vaccine mandates are prominent among the candidates Rustad has appointed so far.

Notable exceptions include Rachael Weber in Prince George—Mackenzie, who currently chairs the local school board; former North Cowichan councillor John Koury in Cowichan Valley; and former Telkwa mayor Sharon Hartwell in Bulkley Valley—Stikine.

The party also strengthened ties with the Conservative Party of Canada (CPC) by nominating Claire Rattée in Skeena. Rattée ran for the CPC in 2019 and 2021.

BC United Leader Kevin Falcon has also been announcing candidates at a rapid rate, many with prior political experience.

The Official Opposition has acclaimed most of its new candidates, rather than holding open nomination races. So far, it has 35 candidates nominated for the next election: 20 new faces and 15 incumbents who have confirmed re-election bids.

The party’s nomination efforts have been partially offset by a steady flow of BC United MLAs announcing they will not be seeking re-election. Seven MLAs have revealed plans to exit the provincial political scene, including West Vancouver—Capilano’s Karin Kirkpatrick, Prince George—Mackenzie’s Mike Morris and Penticton MLA Dan Ashton.

Skeena MLA Ellis Ross is also leaving provincial politics after being nominated by the federal Conservatives in Skeena—Bulkley Valley. Abbotsford West MLA and former premier Christy Clark’s longtime finance minister Mike de Jong is also considering an offer to run federally from CPC Leader Pierre Poilievre.

With health care a hot button issue, BC United has nominated Claudine Storness-Bliss, a former Surrey Memorial Hospital department head, in Surrey—Cloverdale, and Michael Humer, former chief of surgery at Kelowna General Hospital, in Kelowna Centre.

In the north, Falcon selected Lumby Mayor Kevin Acton, Houston Mayor Shane Brienen and former Prince George Chamber of Commerce president Kiel Giddens to speak to small town and resource industry issues. On Vancouver Island, the party nominated Cowichan Tribes contractor Jon Coleman in Cowichan Valley and former Esquimalt councillor Meagan Brame in Esquimalt—Colwood.

“We’ve got a number of great candidates coming forward, but I’ll tell you this, we also are very careful about the candidates we select,” Falcon told BC Today in December.

“We actually do full criminal background checks, we do a full social media review to make sure that we’ve got good people that have got a track record of being involved in the communities and making contributions.”

Greens confirm a dozen candidates, NDP holds off on announcements

Compared to the Conservatives and BC United, the Greens have been moving slowly with only 12 candidates selected so far, including Green Leader Sonia Furstenau and MLA Adam Olsen.

Furstenau said she is not worried and teased that more candidate announcements are coming soon.

“We are building a strong foundation for this campaign,” she said.

The NDP, meanwhile, are keeping their cards close to their chest and have not announced any new candidates.

Seven sitting MLAs have announced their intent to seek re-election, while four have declared they will not: Coquitlam—Maillardville’s Selina Robinson, Powell River—Sunshine Coast’s Nicholas Simons, Nanaimo—North Cowichan’s Doug Routley and Burnaby—Lougheed’s Katrina Chen.

In Simon’s riding, a nomination contest will take place this summer to find his replacement. Five candidates have already put their names forward.

“With such a richness of potential candidates, we will be taking great care to ensure that the nomination process is as fair and representative as possible,” local riding association president Bill Forst told Coast Reporter.

BC Today asked for more information about the NDP’s candidate nomination process but did not receive a response by deadline.

There will be 93 ridings this election, up from the current 87. The change follows a review by the Electoral Boundaries Commission and accounts for increased population in some regions.