Under the wire

11th hour Conservative nomination could upset MLA predictions and split right-wing vote


Right at the deadline, the Conservative Party nominated a candidate for Peace River North.

Wyeth Sigurdson, who works at the Spectra Energy Plant near Taylor, will step into the race with less than 20 days left before the election.

"I believe a Conservative government is best for B.C., and having a Conservative MLA (for Peace River North) would be best for the province," said Sigurdson, who was named the candidate on Friday, the last day that parties could choose their representatives.

Don Irwin, B.C. Conservative regional director for Peace River, said that the decision to nominate Sigurdson was made by the Party last Thursday night. Because of the late entry date, the move was not subject to a public vote.

Another candidate had expressed interest in the Conservative nomination, which Irwin said had the effect of discouraging other potential candidates from entering the race. When that person dropped out of the process, the party was left without a candidate while the other parties had already shifted into campaign mode.

On Friday, a local paper reported that the Conservatives would be backing Arthur Hadland, an independent candidate who has already drawn Green Party support. An unnamed source said that party members were angered by Liberal candidate Pat Pimm's slogan "Your conservative voice in the B.C. Liberal caucus."

Irwin confirmed that while individual members of the party were considering backing Arthur Hadland, the Conservative Party was not planning to officially endorse him.

However, some conservatives are worried that this sudden addition to the ballot box will end up dividing the right-wing vote and hand Peace River North to the NDP. Wyeth, Pimm and Hadland are all card-carrying members of the federal Conservative party.

"The more we split up the right wing, the better chance the NDP have of getting in," warned Pimm. "At the end of the day the general public has to make the decision about who to represent them."

Hadland wished Sigurdson luck, but added that it was too early to say what effect his entry could have on the race.

"In politics any changes is a game-changer but what could happen is anybody's guess," said Hadland. "I have no ability to guess what could happen, but definitely anytime you change the players in a chess board you're going to have an impact."

NDP candidate Judy McGuire said that she remained focused on her own race.

"I wouldn't predict what's going to happen in Peace River North in this election," she said. "I've been hearing what people have been saying about it splitting the vote, but I don't really have an opinion on it."

However, concerns about tipping the vote for the NDP had little weight with Peace River South Conservative MLA candidate Kurt Peats, who is also running against a Liberal candidate.

"I don't think there's ever a problem when you have choice," said Peats. "You can vote on principal and that's what voters should do ... whatever happens, we need to respect the voice of the people."

Sigurdson may be at a disadvantage, having joined the race later than his counterparts. Asked what he would do given this shorter time frame, he said he's "been phoning all my friends and asking them to phone their friends and let them know there's a Conservative MLA out there for the North Peace."

He originally entered the race when he heard that his party had not yet picked a candidate. He consulted others to see if they would step up to take the position and when those did not, he decided to take the role.

"I see a job that needs to be done."

Sigurdson grew up on a hobby farm near Cecil Lake and has worked in oil and gas since the age of 15. He currently resides ten minutes north of Fort St. John, and has worked as a pipeliner, rig worker and swamper on trucks.

He does not have any political experience, and does not see himself as a "polished, career politician."

"I'm just a regular Joe," said Sigurdson.

He said he believes in a "balanced budget" and would not impose higher taxes on industry or on residents.

"The other two parties want to spend more and tax more," said Sigurdson. "So I believe a Conservative government in power will provide a stable government for industry to keep going forward."

Sigurdson also said that he was opposed to the Site C project "as it stands right now."

"For it to go forward I would like to see a permanent access across the Peace there," he said. "I would like to have a review of the numbers. BC Hydro says it would pay for itself, the anti-dam people say it wouldn't pay for itself ... I'd want to make sure we're not doing an expensive make-work project just to provide cheap electricity for the States."

Asked what his personal strengths, he cited his Conservative viewpoint and his willingness "to step forward and help out where needed."

The election is set for May 14.

With files from Derek Bedry

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