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John Cummins doesn't accept the premise his party will split the vote and allow the NDP to take the next provincial election — he says he is in it to win it.
The B.C. Conservative Party leader was in Parksville on Sunday to attend the meeting that acclaimed 56-year-old Nanaimo radiologist David Coupland as the party's candidate for the May 14 provincial election in the Parksville-Qualicum constituency.
"I don't see us as splitting the vote," Cummins told The NEWS before the meeting. "I see the Liberals doing a good job all by themselves driving away the vote. We attract a lot of people who held their nose last time and voted Liberal and they aren't going to do it again."
The Conservatives have candidates in place in about half of the province's 85 constituencies and Cummins said the plan is to have a full slate by the end of February. That process continued Sunday in Parksville with the acclamation of Coupland.
"He (Coupland) is well known in the area and has some great ideas on health care," said Cummins.
Discussions about health care in the Parksville-Qualicum region right now almost always turns to the Oceanside Health Centre, due to open in June of this year. It's unclear if doctors in the area are going to provide the staffing the centre needs to fulfill its promise of a clinic open from 7:30 a.m. to 10:30 p.m. seven days a week. Coupland said he understands why doctors may be reluctant to join the health centre team.
"Apparently, none of the doctors were actually involved in the decision from the get-go," said Coupland. "There's really nothing in it for them. For them it just means expanding their hours and working weekends."
Coupland acknowledged there's a shortage of doctors and other health care professionals nationwide, but he said he believes Parksville-Qualicum has some advantages in attracting these people, including the lower cost of housing (than say, the Lower Mainland) and the ability for doctors to develop their practices from the ground up.
"They can build their department as they want to see it for the next 20 years," he said.
There were about 100 people at the acclamation meeting Sunday at the civic centre and very few were less than 60 years of age. Coupland was asked if his party can attract more youthful voters.
"We are the party that can offer the youth the best hope," he said. "We are the best hope for their future. We will be fiscally responsible and stop spending their future."
Coupland joins Barry Avis (NDP) and Michelle Stilwell (B.C. Liberals) as the only official local candidates, so far, for the May 14 provincial election.