Connie Denesiuk is again looking to enter the political game, but this time she has her eyes set on the federal level.
The former school board chair and trustee recently announced her intention to seek the Liberal nomination for the new South Okanagan West Kootenay riding in order to run as a candidate in the 2015 federal election.
“We are approaching municipal elections and I have had a lot of people saying think about mayor, think about council,” said Denesiuk, explaining that she decided to try for the federal seat and swing the new riding for the Liberals.
“Penticton is traditionally a Conservative voting area and the Kootenays is traditionally NDP. But we are a new riding now,” she said. “I feel this is an opportunity for people to really have a hard look at where they want to go and who they want to lead. I felt it was a good opportunity to put my name forward and see if I could serve the people of the South Okanagan West Kootenay riding.”
Denesiuk is no stranger to the political scene after 19 years holding a seat as a school trustee, and three years interacting with provincial and federal governments as president of the B.C. School Trustees Association and a director of the Canadian School Board Association.
In 2013, she ran at the provincial level against Dan Ashton for the B.C. Liberal nomination, coming in second. She explains her shift from the right-leaning B.C. Liberals to the centrist federal Liberal party as a loss of faith in the federal Conservatives.
“In the past, I was actually a conservative myself. But there have been some things that happened in the last couple of years that I no longer feel the grassroots are being represented by the Conservative party,” she said, listing the Conservative’s response to robocall controversy, the omnibus bills pushed through parliament, and most recently, Bill C-23, the Fair Elections Act.
Issues like those, she said, made her feel she was no longer represented by the Conservative party.
“But I do feel well represented by the platform of the federal Liberals,” said Denesiuk. “With the new riding, I see new opportunity and the chance for people to look at where they want to head and what they want their government to look like. It’s an opportunity for change.”
Denesiuk, who lives in Summerland, said she chose to run in South Okanagan West Kootenay rather than Central Okanagan-Coquihalla because of her ties to the area. During the boundary commission hearings last year, she advocated against redrawing the riding boundaries to separate Penticton and Summerland.
Along with being a trustee before and after the Summerland and Penticton school districts amalgamated, Denesiuk also chaired the Okanagan Skaha School District for nine years. She and her husband Bob, she said, both grew up in Penticton and continue to have business interests throughout the southern riding.
“We feel that we have significant connection in the South Okanagan West Kootenay riding,” she said. “My husband Bob and I have partnered in our construction business, serving the South Okanagan, since 1980. We are proud of our four grown children, and our three grandchildren bring Bob and me great joy.”
Currently, Denesiuk serves as vice chair of the Okanagan College Board of Governors, chair of the Trail of the Okanagan’s steering committee, director for the Summerland Chamber of Commerce, and Summerland Credit Union, and is a member of the leadership board of Summerland Baptist Church.