A provincial election that promises to be unlike anything Chilliwack has seen in a while, got a little more interesting on Monday.
Patti MacAhonic, executive director of the Chilliwack Chamber of Commerce, ended months of speculation and announced she would seek the New Democrat nomination for the riding of Chilliwack. She’ll face Dennis Adamson, Yale area director for the Fraser Valley Regional District, at a nomination meeting on Jan. 19.
In making her decision, MacAhonic also stands to lose her job. The Chamber has granted her a brief leave of absence. But in a statement released 30 minutes prior to MacAhonic’s planned press conference, the Chamber said, “If Ms. MacAhonic is successful in her bid for nomination, the board of directors of the Chilliwack Chamber of Commerce have asked her to tender her resignation as Executive Director.”
That puts the stakes a little higher, both for the nomination, and the upcoming election.
And it adds another twist in the build up to the May vote.
Chilliwack has historically been the model of conservative political stability – where candidates on the left were admired more for their willingness to be led to political slaughter than their ability to secure a convincing win.
The byelection victory by the NDP’s Gwen O’Mahony broke a string of right-of-centre victories.
But local Liberals remain convinced the blemish was an anomaly – something created by a temporary split in right-wing support.
With that fissure seemingly sealed with the recruitment of former BC Conservative adversary John Martin into the Liberal ranks, the party appears confident it can once again out muscle any challenger from the left.
But consider this: in the upcoming provincial election O’Mahony will be the veteran and the only incumbent candidate. And if MacAhonic is successful, she’ll be joined by a former Chamber of Commerce executive director, something that plays nicely into Adrian Dix’s “business friendly” demeanor.
Of course, with the provincial election still months away, speculation is purely academic.
What is certain is that Liberals would be foolish to take for granted their past election wins. The game has changed.