Parties get ready for federal election 

Conservatives chose Weston in anticipation of confidence vote

After less than a year of governing with a minority, the Conservative Party and Bloc Quebecois will today (May 19) attempt to topple the Liberal government in Ottawa with a vote on the budget. If the budget vote fails, that will be taken as a vote of non-confidence and Parliament will immediately be dissolved. A federal election will be called for six weeks time.

The likelihood of that happening was reduced after Conservative MP Belinda Stronach crossed the floor to the Liberal Party on Tuesday morning, but in the end it will be three independent MPs who will decide the fate of this government. With Stronach, the Liberal-NDP coalition has 151 seats, while the Conservatives and Bloc have 152 seats. A tie vote would be broken by the Speaker, who would likely side with the government.

The rancour that has seized Parliament for the last few weeks, sparked by revelations from the Gomery inquiry into the Liberal Party’s involvement in the sponsorship scandal of the 1990s, have prompted Canada’s national parties to get organized at the local level in a short period of time.

This past weekend the Conservative Party of Canada’s riding association for West Vancouver-Sunshine Coast-Sea to Sky held a series of four meetings to elect a new candidate for the region, with voting in Powell River, Sechelt, Squamish and West Vancouver. John Reynolds, the current Conservative Party MP and a former opposition leader, is stepping down whenever Parliament is dissolved.

John Weston, a West Vancouver lawyer who campaigned for former cabinet minister John Fraser in past years, won the Conservative nomination. Weston defeated three other candidates: Doug Lang, a former police officer; children’s care advocate Gean Lewis, and former Whistler councillor Ted Milner.

According to riding association president Alan Hackett, the turnout was strong with more than 500 of 1,500 members voting at the four events using preferential ballot. Weston won after the first count.

Milner was a late entry, joining the race less than two weeks prior to the vote. He said his goal wasn’t to win, but to try and change the course of the debate.

"I was pretty unhappy with what’s going on in Ottawa, and a lot of people encouraged me to give it a try," said Milner. "I got into the race late, so I knew it was really a long shot to achieve any success, but I thought what I could do is to push it along.

"The other candidates were talking about what they believed on the big national issues, and I tried to focus on what the federal government could do for the individuals and communities within our riding. I think a lot of people heard me on that, so I achieved what I set out to do."

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