The Liberal nomination process in Kamloops-North Thompson will be best served by a contest between two well-qualified candidates, party supporters said Tuesday after Mayor Peter Milobar confirmed his candidacy.
About 50 people, including local politicians, community and business leaders, gathered in front of the McArthur Island Sports Centre to cheer on Milobar, the second Liberal hopeful to step forward since last Thursday. He's up against Steven Puhallo, manager of the North Shore Business Improvement Association.
Milobar said it wasn’t an easy choice, but the thought had always been in the back of his mind and the time seemed right with MLA Terry Lake leaving the provincial arena.
“Obviously, doing the job of mayor over the last seven or eight years, it’s been a job I really love and truly do still love to do,” he said.
With his wife Lianne, he visited the North Thompson over the weekend, a tour that solidified his decision, he said.
Milobar’s choice of location for the announcement was meant to represent past accomplishments. The two two-term mayor, a city representative since he became a councillor in 2002 and shortly after became chairman of the Tournament Capital committee, steering the civic initiative to success. The first project was the sports centre.
“It shows you what you can do when you’re willing to work together as a team,” he said. “It certainly wasn’t just me, we had a huge team … That’s really the key to all of this …We’ve heard over the last few days Todd Stone talking about the great teamwork he and Terry had developed, making the ridings seem almost seamless."
Having served as chairman of the TNRD gives Milobar a higher profile in rural areas of the constituency than he would have had serving as Kamloops' mayor alone.
"I've always said that if the region is doing well than Kamloops does well, and if Kamloops does well than so does the region," he added.
He spoke briefly about bringing the TCC facilities together and doing the same for water system projects in outlying areas of the riding.
“That’s really, I think, the key to North Kamloops and the North Thompson, is that we have to keep continually making those incremental changes. Just keep asking, keep working with government at all levels to make sure we maximize and partner the best way as best we can.”
He said he's accustomed to campaigning intensely. In a riding such as Kamloops-North Thompson, where it can be a close race with the rival NDP, that can count for a lot.
If Milobar wins the nomination this fall, he won't immediately step down as mayor. He said he would resign from civic office only after being elected MLA in the spring election. Typically, mayor's running for provincial office take a leave of absence during the writ period, he noted.
Bill Kershaw, Barriere councillor and TNRD representative for the area, feels either one of the candidates seeking the nomination would be well received.
"In the North Thompson, we feel honoured to have two solid candidates running," he said.
Sun Peaks Mayor Al Raine said, as much as he's sorry to see Lake leaving, he's glad to see candidates with experience.
"I'd like to to see someone with in-depth experience at the muncipal level and experience interfacing with the provincial government because, essentially, we're well represented," Raine said.
Milobar and his team didn’t waste any time getting down to the nitty gritty of campaigning Tuesday, setting up a couple of tables to receive donations.
The Milobars just celebrated their 23rd anniversary and have three children aged 22, 21 and 18.