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Canada Former B.C. health minister declares he wants to run for federal Liberals as parties prepare for fall election

Terry Lake poses for a photo after leaving the Legislative Assembly one last time before retirement at legislature in Victoria, B.C., on March 16, 2017.

Chad Hipolito/The Canadian Press

The ranks of prospective B.C. candidates for this fall’s federal election have gained a high-profile contender with former provincial health minister Terry Lake announcing his bid to become a Liberal MP.

Mr. Lake, who is also a former mayor of Kamloops, said Tuesday that he will seek the Liberal nomination in Kamloops-Thompson-Cariboo, a riding Cathy McLeod has held for the Conservatives since 2008. No date has been set for that nomination meeting.

Mr. Lake was a high-profile member of the BC Liberal government under premier Christy Clark. As environment minister, he was at the forefront of pipeline policy. As health minister, he articulated the government response to the opioid crisis. The two-term member of the provincial legislature announced in 2016 that he would not seek re-election in 2017. That vote led to the end of the BC Liberal government.

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Shachi Kurl, executive director of the Angus Reid Institute, said Tuesday that Mr. Lake’s interest opens up the possibility of the Liberals being competitive in a riding usually associated with the Conservatives, who won by about five points in 2015.

“The question becomes [whether] Conservative voters say, 'We really like Terry Lake but we’re not going to vote for him under a Liberal banner,’ or are they motivated by, `Hey, well, Terry Lake. He’s a good guy. We would consider voting for him as a Liberal.’”

Mr. Lake said he’s looking to draw votes from across the political spectrum – though he conceded it could be a complicated situation.

“There is no question that there are some conservative-minded people who have supported me as a BC Liberal that will have difficulty supporting the Liberal Party federally. Others who have talked to me have said they are generally not Liberal supporters but they will support me,” he said.

He said he decided to run because he likes Liberal policies on issues such as climate change and reconciliation with Indigenous peoples.

“I just came to the conclusion that I didn’t want to sit on the sidelines.”

According to Ms. Kurl, the key question in B.C. is whether the Liberals can maintain their support among the New Democrats who voted for them in 2015 to head off another term for the Conservative government of Stephen Harper.

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The Liberals now have 17 of B.C.'s 41 federal seats. The NDP has 13. The Conservatives have nine, and Green Party Leader Elizabeth May represents a Vancouver Island riding. There is also one independent, former attorney-general Jody Wilson-Raybould, who was ousted from the Liberal caucus.

As of Tuesday, the Liberals had nominated five candidates in unheld ridings, according to the party. One of the most high-profile is former TV anchor Tamara Taggart – the Prime Minister presided over her nomination meeting – running in the Vancouver Kingsway seat that New Democrat Don Davies has held since 2008. In 2015, he won with an 18-point lead over the Liberal runner-up. All of the party’s B.C. incumbents are seeking re-election.

The Conservatives have nominated candidates in 28 ridings, a mix of incumbents and newcomers such as former Kelowna city councillor Tracy Grey in Kelowna Lake Country and Byron Horner, executive producer of the IMAX film Great Bear Rainforest, who is running in Courtenay-Alberni.

The NDP has 15 candidates ready to go, with three other nomination meetings planned for this week. The mix of incumbents and newcomers includes Laurel Collins, a Victoria city councillor seeking to succeed Murray Rankin as the MP in Victoria. And former MP Svend Robinson is seeking a political comeback as a candidate in Burnaby-North Seymour.

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