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• Monday, October 11th, 2010

Tumbler Ridge News Article

Local councillor pursues Hill’s former seat

Greg Amos
Wednesday October 13, 2010

Tumbler Ridge councillor Jerrilyn Schembri is taking a politically-ambitious step towards the Conservative Party nomination for the Prince George – Peace River federal riding.

In the wake of current MP Jay Hill’s impending retirement, Schembri has emerged as one of five declared candidates hoping to wear the Conservative banner into the next federal election. While the six-week nomination period hasn’t yet been officially declared, speculation is mounting about the possible contenders.
“Jay Hill represented this area fantastically, and I think he set the bar high,” said Schembri, who believes the seat is a particularly important one within the House of Commons. “I think what’s best for the northeast is what’s best for Canada.”

Prince George – Peace encompasses 237,174 square kilometres of northeastern British Columbia, on both sides of the Rocky Mountains, and has a total population of more than 104,000. Political analysts also consider the riding to be one of the “safest” seats in Canada, as it’s been filled buy either a Reform Party or Conservative candidate in every election since 1972.

Many see the nomination battle as the deciding factor for who will be the region’s next MP, as taking the nomination nearly guarantees winning the seat.
“Every one of (the candidates) probably has fairly similar mandates, but I think I stand out in the way I approach things, and physically as well,” said Schembri, who stands well over six feet tall. “I’m comfortable in debates, and I’m not afraid to speak my mind.”
Before joining the Conservative Party in recent months, Schembri read through the Conservative Party’s policy document to be sure she’s in agreement with their direction on various issues.

“They have strong policies, good policies, and there’s a lot of it – it wasn’t a small document,” she said. Schembri said she’s fully in support of the Conservative stance on eliminating the long gun registry and on the scrapping of the mandatory long-form census. “I believe this is essentially information that the government doesn’t need to know about people,” she said.

Also vying for the nomination are three candidates from Fort St. John, all of whom have held positions as directors with the electoral riding association. School principal Don Irwin, teacher Bob Zimmer, and teacher Dan Davies seek the nod, while Prince George councillor Cameron Stolz is also pursuing the nomination. Independent Peace River South MLA Blair Lekstrom has denied he’s planning on running for the nomination.

Hill’s last day on the job will be October 25, and there’s a six month window from that date before a by-election must be called. Some see Hill’s exit from politics this autumn as an indication of a possible impending spring election.

“I’ve heard a number of different scenarios, but no one really knows,” said Chad Anderson, the president and CEO of Conservative Party of Canada’s Prince George – Peace River riding association.

Schembri says she feels ready to move from a politically independent role on a municipal council to becoming a member of a tightly controlled political party, in which MPs will be required to follow party policy at all times.

“You learn from municipal politics that you need to support the will of council,” she said. “That doesn’t mean I won’t have a voice (in Ottawa).”
At the Union of British Columbia Municipalities (UBCM) annual meeting last week, Schembri was voted in as Tumbler Ridge’s first ever director-at-large on the UBCM board. She’s hoping to overcome similar odds to gain the Conservative Party seat, but will require the support of at least 25 Conservative Party members. Once the nomination is officially open, candidates have three weeks to secure those 25 signatures, and another three weeks for campaigning, debates, and nomination votes in various communities within the riding. Those interested in supporting Schembri’s nomination can visit www.jerrilyn.ca to learn more about her campaign.

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