In pumping up their man in this election, some supporters of Liberal Stephen Fuhr boast that Kelowna has never seen an MP like him.
On Twitter, where Fuhr is a combative partisan, that is true, but his supporters are really referring to successes in attracting government dollars and attention to the riding.
On that count, his accomplishments are undeniable, but he’s not the first of his kind in the Kelowna area.
Al Horning and Ron Cannan had impressive records of helping to steer government contracts to local businesses, attracting funding for infrastructure projects and bringing big political names to this riding.
Fuhr recently noted he has helped to secure more than $160 million for, among other things, upgrading the East Kelowna water system, enhancing flood mitigation on Mission Creek, supporting development of the Okanagan Rail Trail, and for projects at UBC Okanagan.
We’ve seen Liberal cabinet ministers and Prime Minister Justin Trudeau come through the riding. They know we’re here, partially thanks to Fuhr. When floods and fire threatened parts of the riding, Ottawa knew Kelowna needed help.
Kelowna’s Veteran Affairs office, closed under the Stephen Harper government, reopened following the election of Fuhr and the Liberals in 2015.
But Fuhr’s not the first Kelowna MP to do these kind of things.
Horning, known as a human pit bull in Ottawa during the Brian Mulroney government from 1988 to 1993, helped to land a massive military truck contract for then-Kelowna truck builder Western Star, and smaller contracts for other Kelowna businesses.
He fought successfully for a runway extension at Kelowna airport. That meant planes bigger than a Dash 8 could land here. It’s not stretching things to say the airport’s development as a regional hub is due to these efforts.
Horning didn’t just bring cabinet ministers to Kelowna, he brought the whole cabinet, which came for a couple of days of meetings at Lake Okanagan Resort.
One of Cannan’s top successes was landing a passport office. What a handy service in the Capri mall that’s turned out to be. At the time, it seemed impressive little Kelowna was able to attract an office like that. Beats going to Vancouver to get a passport or putting your valuable ID in the mail.
Cannan even got an Honourable title, which usually only goes to cabinet ministers, when he joined a treasury board committee.
One of Cannan’s strengths was letting organizations know when there were federal dollars or assistance they should take advantage of. He’d just call them up and tell them.
The Highway 97 bypass through Lake Country went ahead because of federal dollars secured while Cannan was an MP in Harper’s government.
Horning was defeated when the Progressive Conservatives were nearly wiped out in 1993. He went on to become an MLA, returned to city council and served as a trustee with Rutland Waterworks.
It has become easy for some people to trash Cannan’s record after his surprising defeat to Fuhr in 2015. But he had a lot of accomplishments in a long run as a city councillor and MP.
Fuhr’s fans can rightly boast of his accomplishments the past four years. That includes passage of a private member’s bill meant to address a looming pilot shortage.
But he’s not one of a kind — he’s one of a few of a kind.
Pat Bulmer is city editor of the Kelowna Daily Courier.