While it still may not look very much like it in some corners, winter is releasing its grip on the West Kootenay. Snowfalls turning to rain showers, songbirds returning to the trees, and creeks swollen with runoff signal the return of spring to the region. And, along with the seasonal turns, every four years also brings with it spring provincial elections. In the provincial riding of Kootenay West that means NDP candidate, Katrine Conroy, is gearing up her campaign to, once again, win the honour of representing the riding in the Provincial Legislature of British Columbia.
“One of the questions I get asked the most is, ‘Why run again?’” Conroy said. “I’m doing this because I think we have an opportunity to affect change. You accomplish what you can as the opposition but you can do more as government and we need a government that cares about people. We need a government that understands rural BC. John (Horgan – leader of the BC NDP) gets it. Christy Clark does not.”
Horgan was the government staff person assigned by former BC Premier Mike Harcourt to work on the development of the Columbia Basin Trust with the area MLA’s at the time, Ed Conroy (Katrine’s husband who she later succeeded as MLA) and Corky Evans, as well as MLA’s from the East Kootenay.
“John understands rural issues,” Conroy said. “He lives in a rural area of Vancouver Island, he has raised his kids there… he just gets it.”
Conroy was surrounded by campaign staffers, who were busily organizing what will be the candidate’s new campaign office on Columbia Avenue in Castlegar in preparation for an April 8 Grand Opening to celebrate the campaign kick-off in the new location.
Gearing up for elections and dealing with the business of politics is a familiar process for Conroy, having worked with her husband, Ed, while he represented the region in Victoria and then having held the seat in the legislature since being elected in 2005 herself. However, her experience is far more diverse than just the political sphere.
“I’ve had a number of different careers,” Conroy said. “I was one of the first women to work as a power engineer in the province. I was the first woman on the pulp mill floor at Celgar (in Castlegar). I actually wore a hard hat to work, not just for photo-ops.”
Conroy said she later returned to school and began a career in Early Childhood Education (ECE), eventually working her way up from childcare worker to Executive Director of Kootenay Family Place in Castlegar. She then moved on to teaching administration in the ECE program at Selkirk College. In addition, she and Ed have successfully run a small business for years, raising purebred cattle on their acreage in the Kootenays.
“I get what people in rural BC are dealing with,” Conroy said. “I’ve been a union member and the employer and I’ve owned a small business as well. In the last 16 years, rural unemployment has gone up significantly and the debt in BC has risen to $70 billion dollars. We can build a better BC and I want to be there to work for it.”
Conroy will be holding a Grand Opening of her campaign office at 223A Columbia Avenue, in Castlegar, Saturday, April 8, beginning at 12 noon.