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BC Liberals plan 'byelection blitz' in Chilliwack

After an apparent stumbling start to the upcoming byelection in Chilliwack-Hope, BC Liberals are preparing a "Super Saturday" blitz to nominate a candidate and rally party support.

Premier Christy Clark and former Chilliwack-Fraser Canyon MP Chuck Strahl are expected to speak at the meeting where Laurie Throness will be acclaimed the party's byelection candidate.

"The Premier will be there," Throness confirmed Wednesday. "It's going to be a significant meeting with a whole bunch of supporters, and afterwards we're going to blitz a few neighbourhoods in town."

Party organizers have set up a website calling for volunteers, and a BC Young Liberals website offers transportation to the "byelection blitz" in Chilliwack.

"On Saturday ... BC Liberals will crowd into Chilliwack-Hope to make sure the riding stays with us in the upcoming byelection," the website states. "And BC Young Liberals need to be there, leading the charge."

"The NDP and the BC Conservatives want Chilliwack-Hope - they're going all in," the website continues. "We have to match their efforts, or better yet, beat them. The only way we can do that is with your help."

The meeting starts at 10 a.m. at the Coast Hotel.

BC Conservatives acclaimed John Martin as their candidate on Jan. 24 and the BC NDP elected Gwen O'Mahony as their candidate on Jan. 28.

Throness has wide political experience behind-the-scenes as a policy advisor and former chief of staff in Strahl's Ottawa office, but not in elected office.

He announced his intentions to seek the BC Liberal nomination after former city councillor Diane Janzen withdrew her name, citing her link to the federal Liberals as a candidate in the last federal election.

Throness was apparently urged by Strahl to seek the nomination, but he would not confirm that Wednesday.

"Let's say Chuck has always encouraged me to follow my aspirations," he said.

As for the BC Liberal's late start in the byelection, Throness countered that he didn't announce his intentions late — the other party candidates had simply announced "very early" for a byelection that may not be called for months.

"I announced the day after Barry's resignation," Throness said. "I think it was a very timely announcement."

However, he agreed a byelection is not the biggest draw for potential candidates of the governing party — because the results historically go against the government.

And the candidate will also face another campaign in just one year when the provincial election gets underway, he said.

"I think that narrows down the field of potential candidates."

The NDP is claiming their support is growing in the riding, buoying their hope of an unprecedented victory.

Throness didn't dismiss the challenge, but pointed to the low number (85) of NDP memberships in the riding after a leadership convention and the eve of a nomination meeting where only 35 showed up to vote.

But the growth of the NDP support in the riding is "a very real obstacle," he said. "We're going to be going all out to counter that."

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