Renee Wasylyk believes she will lead Kelowna’s Conservatives to victory in the 2019 federal election.
“Absolutely, I wouldn’t be running if I didn’t think I could win,” the newly announced hopeful for the Conservative nomination in Kelowna-Lake Country said in an interview.
“I come with a lot of history, a broad base of experience and almost all of the areas (required to be a strong member of Parliament). I do believe I have the heart of the community. That’s important to me. I want to carry the voice of the community. For me, if I didn’t believe I have a chance (of winning), I wouldn’t be doing this.”
Wasylyk made her official announcement at a brief gathering of supporters and friends Wednesday evening at the Innovation Centre.
Conservative MPs Dan Albas of Central Okanagan-Similkameen-Nicola and Mel Arnold from North Okanagan-Shuswap introduced Wasylyk.
“(Party leader) Andrew Scheer asked me to do some outreach for the party, making sure we’re connecting with community champions and to find someone who would take up the mantle in this area,” Albas said. “I talked to people in the not-for-profit sector. They said Renee. I went to the business community and they said ‘Renee would be a natural.’ I went to the Conservative party, and they said ‘someone like Renee would be fantastic.’”
Arnold, who is completing his first term in office, has served only in opposition.
“I’ve always been told it’s much better to move from opposition into government,” he said. “With what Renee is about to launch, we can all be excited about making a change in Kelowna-Lake Country and bringing it back to Conservative blue under the leadership of Andrew Scheer.”
Kelowna Mayor Colin Basran was in attendance but did not speak.
Wasylyk is pleased to receive endorsements from the two neighbouring MPs.
“It’s a huge start,” she said. “It really signals that I’m definitely someone the party wants to see as the next nominee and candidate. It signals there’s a united front and that’s important for me, to have a voice and make sure we’re represented effectively.”
Born in Drumheller, Alta., in 1975 and raised in Southern California, she has a master’s degree in theology from Taylor Seminary and a master’s of business administration from the University of Liverpool. She located in Edmonton before moving to the Okanagan, 20 years ago, where she founded Troika Group, a Western Canadian organization of development projects and construction companies.
During her high school years, she was president and vice-president of a student council in a school with more than 3,000 students.
Making a jump to politics is always something she wanted to do, and she believes the timing is right. She decided to seek the nomination after meeting Scheer during his recent swing through the Valley. She was impressed with what he offers.
In her speech to supporters, Wasylyk gave tremendous praise to her employees who helped build the business to the point where it’s now one of the largest development companies in the Valley.
She serves on several boards, including The Breakfast Club of Canada and First West Credit Union. Her volunteer efforts include Opera Kelowna and the Nature Trust of B.C.
The Conservatives lost Kelowna-Lake Country in the 2015 election. Incumbent Ron Cannan fell by 4,000 votes to Liberal Stephen Fuhr. Cannan has said he won’t attempt a comeback in federal politics.
Fuhr sounded dismissive when asked to comment on Wasylyk on Thursday.
“With potential Conservative candidates, all roads lead to Andrew Scheer,” he said in an email. “We’ve already rejected that type of social and fiscal political ideology. Canada is a progressive, First World democracy, and I intend on keeping it that way.”
Wasylyk is the first to announce her intention to seek the nomination.
A date for the nomination meeting has not been set, but it’s expected to be in the fall.