Shelley Cook and Robert Mellalieu have a tough job in the May 9 provincial election.
They’ve taken on the challenge of going after the number one politician in B.C., Premier Christy Clark.
Cook and Mellalieu are running in Kelowna West, which Clark won in a byelection in 2013 after the B.C. Liberal premier lost her seat in Vancouver-Point Grey in the general election held that year.
Formerly Westside Kelowna, the provincial electoral district is a B.C. Liberal stronghold.
Cook is with the B.C. NDP, and Mellalieu is carrying the B.C. Green banner.
Cook was born and raised in Kelowna. She was a former executive director with the John Howard Society of the Central and South Okanagan. She is currently a PhD student in the community, culture and global studies (urban geography) at UBC Okanagan.
“It’s a bit daunting, this idea of taking on the existing premier,” Cook told the Georgia Straight in a phone interview.
According to Cook, she’s doing it because she cares deeply about the people and issues in Kelowna West.
She said that running against the incumbent premier provides a “brighter spotlight” on the constituency.
“You can see that as a huge opportunity to talk about and bring some attention to important issues in this riding, and so that’s what I intend to do,” Cook said.
Cook said that like many people across the province, residents in Kelowna West want to see affordable and better services, whether that’s housing, health care, education or support for small businesses.
“Locally, I mean we’re struggling desperately with some of the same issues that you are on the coast,” she said.
According to Cook, she has “no sort of hidden strategy” to defeat the premier, other than to work hard during the election campaign.
“It’s the same approach I’ve used in everything I’ve taken on in my life, [which] is to … absolutely work 150 percent,” she said.
Mellalieu of the Greens owns a local computer support business. He and his family have lived in West Kelowna for 25 years. He is an active member of the community.
According to Mellalieu, it doesn’t really matter that he is up against a premier.
“I’m running for my neighbours,” Mellalieu told the Straight in a phone interview. “I want to be their representative. I feel that we have been underrepresented.”
“I really don’t care that she’s the competition,” he continued, referring to Clark. “That’s not important to me. What’s important to me is that I get elected so I can represent my constituency correctly.”
Mellalieu also said that Clark is not his biggest concern in the race.
“Shelley is my big worry,” Mellalieu said about the B.C. NDP’s Cook. “She’s really nice, and … the NDP and the Green [party] have a lot of stuff that cross the same line.”
Brian Thiesen is running as an independent candidate in Kelowna West.