A provincial election has yet to be called, but at least two contenders have thrown their hats in the ring as Liberal MLA Donna Barnett’s potential successor in the Cariboo-Chilcotin riding.
Lorne Doerkson, a consultant with Investor’s Group in Williams Lake, and Williams Lake consultant and political analyst Mike Geoghegan, have both announced they will be seeking the B.C. Liberal nomination. Barnett, who was elected MLA for Cariboo-Chilcotin in 2009 and re-elected in 2017, confirmed in January she won’t be running for re-election.
The riding is the sixth-largest in the province.
Doerkson, 51, said he’s running “out of a love for the riding and all that is in it.” It’s the first foray into politics for the Williams Lake resident, who was previously a newspaper publisher with Black Press Media and sales manager and partner with Cariboo GM.
“I just feel like the Cariboo has had a pretty good representative in Donna and I don’t want that trend to go away,” Doerkson said. “More than ever now, the community needs to be heard up here.”
Doerkson said if he wins the nomination, he hopes to carry on Barnett’s work, noting she has been “an amazing ambassador” for the Cariboo-Chilcotin. He maintains the province generally focuses on bigger populations, yet there are major issues that need to be addressed in this region, such as the $220-million upgrade to the Cariboo Memorial Hospital in Williams Lake, treaty negotiations with the local First Nations and ensuring public meetings regarding caribou protection and moose hunting are open and transparent.
He said he’s still getting to know the issues in the 100 Mile House area.
“At this point, it’s pretty early in the game. There are lots of unknowns right now; the big thing is we need to get our people into place,” he said.
Doerkson is an active volunteer with the Rotary and Williams Lake Stampede.
He also previously sat as president of the British Columbia and Yukon Community Newspaper Association and director of the Canadian Community Newspaper Association.
“At the end of the day, whether it’s me or another candidate, our background and community involvement will be what we are judged on.”
Geoghegan, who has lived in Williams Lake for the past couple of years, said he is aware of at least two other people interested in the nomination.
“We know that the NDP is looking at calling a provincial election the last week of September or the first week in October,” he told Black Press Media recently.
“The reason they are going for a fall election is because the NDP are riding high in the polls right now and want to convert their minority government into a majority government.”
Geoghegan grew up in the Southern Interior and achieved a bachelor’s degree in economics from the University of Victoria. He worked at the B.C. Legislature for four-and-a-half years as a ministerial assistant, before becoming a government relations consultant.
In Victoria, he did a weekly political commentary on a local radio station but gave it up when he moved to Williams Lake for a six-month contract as an acting executive director for the Tsilhqot’in National Government.
He still does regular TV news interviews where he comments on federal politics.
“I got bitten by the political bug at a young age,” Geoghegan said.
He noted one of his priorities for the riding would be infrastructure funding. It is something he has experience lobbying for in other areas, he noted.
Geoghegan’s wife is the general manager of the Sandman Hotel and Suites Williams Lake.