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Courtenay-Comox Conservative candidate opens office

B.C. Conservative candidate Leah McCulloch opened her campaign office on Cliffe Avenue in Courtenay last Friday. - Spencer Anderson / Echo Staff
B.C. Conservative candidate Leah McCulloch opened her campaign office on Cliffe Avenue in Courtenay last Friday.
— image credit: Spencer Anderson / Echo Staff

By Spencer Anderson

Leah McCulloch was the first B.C. Conservative candidate announced to run in the May 9 provincial election. She is now one of two candidates announced so far, and the party currently has no leader.

But McCulloch, a former dietician, says she is enjoying to her "audacious" run to be Courtenay-Comox MLA and make history as the party's first elected member.

She has a compelling biography to go along with the audacity.

Originally from Port Alberni, her career began working with pregnant women living in poverty and struggling with addiction in Vancouver's Downtown Eastside.

Her career in the public health sector spanned 24 years, including time as a health consultant. She most recently spear-headed a program in hospitals to increase smoking cessation among patients.

Conservative party president Corbin Mitchell said Courtenay-Comox is one of the seats the party thinks it has a chance of winning.

"Leah is exactly the type of person needed so badly now in B.C. politics," said Mitchell.

McCulloch and her family moved to the Comox Valley approximately two years ago, where she says they intend to put down permanent routes.

She says she wants to see a greater investment in local agriculture, smarter (not less) health spending and a more transparent government in Victoria.

"I do love a challenge and sometimes you just have to stand up," she said. "I've never been into politics before, it's not my thing, but you wake up one morning and go, 'I can complain, or stand up.'"

Her campaign's emphasis on improving transparency in government and integrity will be a bridge to voters' minds and hearts, she said.

"You can be NDP and vote for me, because I represent the heart of who you want your government to be," she said.

"I'm saying we can still deliver a lot of really, really important programs, but we can do it smarter," she said.

But all that requires getting elected and there are other vehicles for a fiscal conservative to get a seat – namely the B.C. Liberals.

"That was suggested to me," said McCulloch. "'Why don't you choose to run in a Liberal riding (where) they need a candidate and you could just slide in there,' and for a millisecond I thought about it."

Did the B.C. Liberals directly approach McCulloch to run as a candidate?

"I'm not going to comment on that," she said.

"This is my home. I love this valley, I'm committed to this valley. I wouldn't even consider running anywhere else, as much as that might be easier."

McCulloch credits her early years working in one of Canada's poorest neighbourhoods (the Downtown Eastside) with grounding her views on what it means to be a public servant.

"I think the value I bring to the Valley is that I spent a lot of time in the streets of Vancouver," she said. "I've seen the good, the bad and the ugly."

"It taught me humility," she said. "It taught me all the knowledge you have in your head is irrelevant if you don't go with your heart and go and speak to people where they live."

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