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Federal Liberals organize in Central, South Okanagan

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Gordon Neish of Penticton, left, and Gus Richardson of Peachland were elected presidents of their respective federal Liberal riding associations at a joint annual general meeting Saturday in Penticton.
Members of the federal Liberal riding associations in the Central and South Okanagan won't be offended if you joke about them renting a phone booth for their annual general meetings.
They said it themselves.
At a joint AGM for the newly created ridings of Central Okanagan-Similkameen-Nicola and South Okanagan-West Kootenay, both riding association presidents expressed satisfaction with the attendance by 50-plus members Saturday at the Ramada Inn in Penticton.
"The turnout today is extremely encouraging and the spirit of those in attendance is even more encouraging," said Central Okanagan president Gus Richardson of Peachland.
"There's a lot more Liberal-minded thinking and feeling in this room, as well as in these two new ridings, this province and the entire country right now."
The new riding, established in 2012 by the federal electoral district commission, will include West Kelowna, Summerland, Peachland, Merritt, Logan Lake, Keremeos, Princeton and parts of Kelowna.
Okanagan-Coquihalla MP Dan Albas has said that if he seeks re-election, it will be in this riding.
Richardson recognizes the Okanagan Valley has been a Conservative stronghold for years and that there are currently only two Liberal MPs in all of B.C. He believes the trend is slowly changing.
"It's an exceedingly high mountain for us to climb, but we're cautiously optimistic," he said.
Meanwhile, Gordon Neish of Penticton was chosen president of the South Okanagan riding, which will include Penticton, Oliver, Osoyoos, Keremeos, Grand Forks, Castlegar and Trail.
"Today is part of the Liberal party's resurgence in the country, and it's encouraging to see so much willingness and enthusiasm on collectively working towards having a Liberal government elected in 2015," Neish said.
He says the popularity of leader Justin Trudeau in recent opinion polls is a bonus. The new riding includes Rossland, where the Trudeau family has skied for years.
Neish said he's not overly pleased with the change in boundaries, which separates Summerland and Penticton.
"I don't think anyone is happy with the boundary changes," he said. "Everyone would have preferred Summerland and Penticton stay together, but it is what it is. What we have now are two extremely large ridings geographically."
Richardson and Neish said a date for their respective nomination meetings won't be determined until later this year. At the moment, there are only rumours of potential candidates interested in seeking the Liberal nomination.
It's possible the South Okanagan-West Kootenay executive will seek a candidate from outside Penticton and focus on the other parts of the riding.
Penticton realtor Marshall Neufeld is the lone declared candidate for the Conservative nomination. The NDP will have a nomination meeting as Dick Cannings of Naramata and Margaret Maximenko of Christina Lake are both seeking the nomination. NDPer Alex Atamanenko, who represents the B.C. Southern Interior, which includes a large portion of the new riding, has announced he will not seek re-election.
Also elected to the executive of the Central Okanagan-Similkameen-Nicola riding on Saturday were Vikram Sandhu, vice-president; Sam Wyatt, treasurer; Darcy Allen, secretary; Shan Lavell, communications; Keith Ferlan, policy; Christine Elder, membership; and Jacob Lusted, organization.
Other executive members for the South Okanagan-West Kootenay riding include Dan Ashman, vice-president; John Rawkins, treasurer; Fletcher Quince, secretary; Bob Nicholson, communications; Karen Brownlee, organization; Jim Greene, membership; and Bob Chamut, policy.
For more information about either riding, contact Richardson at 250-767-6135 or This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it , or Neish at 250-490-3635 or This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it .

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