Tom Shypitka has won the B.C. Liberal Party nomination in the Kootenay East riding and will be running in the provincial election next May.
Shypitka announced his intention to seek the party nomination in July, running against former Kootenay-Columbia MP David Wilks, who was also vying for the opportunity.
“I knew it was going to be an uphill battle to begin with,” said Wilks of Shypitka’s win. “It’s a challenge when you have someone that’s outside of Cranbrook trying to take a run at anything but my team and I gave it a really good shot.
“I look forward now to focusing on what I wanted to do in the first place which is to get back into municipal politics, that’s where my passion is. That’s what I want to do anyway, that’s when I am most happy.”
Wilks plans to run for Sparwood Mayor again in 2018.
“I have made no bones about it from the get go that that is where I really wanted to go back to so that is the intent in 2018,” he said. “It’s just the timing of this came along, if the provincial election would have conflicted with the municipal election I wouldn’t even have considered it.”
Wilks also said that he would not consider the federal election because it is one year after the next municipal vote.
“I wish Tom the best, I will help him out wherever I can, we get along very well. Now we will wait to see who the NDP elect.”
Shypitka, a long-time Cranbrook resident who was elected to city council in November 2014, will be running in the stead of Bill Bennett, who is retiring after 16 years of representing Kootenay-East as MLA.
As per B.C Liberal Party rules, the specific vote tallies were not disclosed.
“I’m a little bit overwhelmed, but not overwhelmed in a bad way,” Shypitka said, after delivering a victory speech to supporters at the Rocky Mountain Prestige Resort on Sunday evening. “It’s just a lot of emotion that’s come up; it’s been a year and a half in the making.
Terry Segarty, a former Social Credit Party MLA who represented the East Kootenay region from 1979-1986, also ran for the nomination but his application was rejected by a B.C. Liberal Party candidate selection committee for undisclosed reasons.
Shypitka will resume his city council duties while campaigning for the provincial election, which is tentatively scheduled for May 9, 2017.
“It’s organization time, it’s getting the team together,” said Shypitka. “As you saw during the nomination, if you don’t have a good team, you don’t get results, and we had a great team and we’re looking on expanding that team. “That’ll be the first step.”
Shypitka says he will be able to balance his city councillor role with his new responsibilities as a provincial party candidate, adding that he can wear the two hats, barring any conflicts of interest.
“Municipal government is non-partisan, so I have to be careful not to bring partisanship into city council and I’m comfortable I’ll be able to do that,” Shypitka said. “I’ll put my city hat on every time I step into chambers. There might be a conflict from time to time, but I’ll be aware of those conflicts and I’ll step aside when that comes.
“I’m comfortable that I’ll be able to fulfill my obligations to the city.”
Shypitka will be running against either fellow city councillor colleague Norma Blissett or Randal Macnair, the former mayor of Fernie, who are both vying for the Kootenay East NDP nomination.
“The general election is going to be a bit broader now, so some of the issues that are relative to this area are going to be land-use access issues, wildlife management issues, health care — our regional hospital, I want to expand on that — and education,” Shypitka said. “I think those would be the four top ones.”
Shypitka replaces Bennett, who has won the last four electoral terms as the B.C. Liberal Party candidate, and served as cabinet minister in a number of roles, including his current portfolio as Minister of Energy and Mines.
“The bar is high, the shoes are big,” said Shypitka. “What have I learned from Bill? Character, drive, passion, heart. Those are the things that I think I have inherently and I think that’s why Bill took me under his wing; I think he saw that in me.
“I can’t speak like Bill, I can’t act like Bill. Sometimes that’s a good thing, sometimes that’s a bad thing, but I’ll have my own way of handling things. But what will stay the same is the drive and the heart and the moving forward with making this place a better place to live.”
Outside of life in politics, Shypitka works as a financial advisor with Sun Life Financial. He is married to wife Carrie, and has three children — Allie, Adam and Dustin.