Former Pemberton mayor running for Conservatives 

Nancy Greene Raine approached as candidate in Kamloops

A former mayor of the Village of Pemberton is now running to be the Conservative Member of Parliament in the Interior riding of Kamloops-Thompson-Cariboo.

Cathy McLeod, who served as Pemberton mayor between 1996 and 1999, was appointed as the candidate in the riding to replace incumbent Betty Hinton, who had held the seat since 2000.

McLeod’s appointment came as a shock for Kamloops citizens who had no idea who she was before her candidacy, according to Mel Rothenburger, former Kamloops mayor and editor of the Kamloops Daily News.

“The local riding association had been dragging its feet in naming a candidate, long after the NDP, the Liberals and the Greens for that matter had named their candidates,” he said in an interview.

“The theory was that they were looking for a big name candidate to replace Hinton, and that they were having trouble finding one, but you know, in the end, they just left it to the federal party to appoint someone that is not just a virtual unknown, but an unknown in community circles here.”

While mayor of Pemberton, McLeod spearheaded the construction of a walking bridge over the Pemberton Canal that connected The Glen neighbourhood to the rest of town, according to Garth Phare, a Pemberton resident who served on council with McLeod.

She also worked to develop close relations with Miya Village, Pemberton’s former sister city in Japan, and initiated plans to develop a wastewater treatment plant.

“I think she was quite instrumental in… trying to create a better structure within the community as far as development went,” Phare said. “Of course at that time, Pemberton was still very, very small… there wasn’t nearly as much on the agenda, as far as new projects, as are happening today.”

Phare said the community has changed immensely since she left, but McLeod nevertheless played an important role in its future.

“Anytime anybody is sitting on a council, you’re part of the future,” he said. “I wouldn’t say that she was instrumental in the dynamics of the change, but certainly was part of what’s happened today.”

McLeod, who also served as a councillor prior to becoming mayor, left the mayor’s post partway through her term to take up work in Kamloops. Phare was not certain of where she took up work after leaving Pemberton, saying only that it was an administrative job.

McLeod’s campaign did not agree to an interview until after the election is finished.

Now seeking to get involved in national politics, McLeod has been a registered nurse since 1981 and has “first hand knowledge” of the importance of basic health care, according to her website. She has also been a manager in various places including Pemberton, Logan Lake, Chase and the Kamloops Downtown Health Centre.

She was also a Municipal Provincial team delegate for three years as part of the In-SHUCK-ch treaty negotiations, an experience that she said has given her a “more comprehensive understanding” of challenges that aboriginal communities face.

Her campaign in Kamloops, however, has been an uphill climb according to Rothenburger.

He said that Roger Barnsley, the former president of Thompson Rivers University, was also approached to be a candidate before McLeod was appointed, as was former Whistler resident and Olympic champion Nancy Greene Raine, who now lives at Sun Peaks Resort.

As for McLeod’s electoral hopes, Rothenburger said the Conservative brand is very strong in Kamloops-Thompson-Cariboo, but her candidacy will depend largely on the popularity of Prime Minister Stephen Harper.

“The wisdom is that in federal elections, the most important thing is the leader and the party,” he said. “The candidate is actually a secondary consideration.

“So it’s not out of this world to think that McLeod actually could win, but she is at a disadvantage because she isn’t as well known as the other candidates.”

Rothenburger also noted that McLeod did not return three separate requests for an interview with his paper, though she did agree to one on a local radio station.

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