In late 2005 Ron Cannan was completing a near 10-year run as a Kelowna city councillor when he was approached by the Conservative Party of Canada to run as a candidate in the next federal election.
A popular councillor at the time, he had never been a member of a federal party before, but he took the chance to join Stephen Harper’s Conservatives, moving up to the highest of politics in this country when he was elected as a member of government in the 2006 federal election.
And while he wouldn’t admit it on Monday night, in the hours following his defeat at the hands of Liberal candidate Stephen Fuhr, it’s hard not to believe that Cannan was taken down by the wave of anti-Stephen Harper sentiment that swept across the country.
“I think a lot of people in town were torn on Monday,” said Kelowna city councillor Ryan Donn, who was at Cannan’s after-election get together Monday night. “You look at the person of Ron Cannan and I think a lot of people wanted to support the person but had trouble supporting Stephen Harper or the Conservative party. If you look at Ron, he represents what is Canadian but I don’t think people were seeing that at the next level. They were forced to choose between the person they see on a daily basis and the national party, which perhaps wasn’t representing their Canadian perspective.”
Cannan took the high road in his concession speech to party supporters and following that when questioned by the media. He wouldn’t take the bait when asked if the anti-Harper sentiment was a factor in his loss, saying only that you win as a team and lose as a team.
“Canadians wanted a change and they are going to get a change,” said Cannan. “I want to thank Stephen Fuhr and his campaign for their hard work. It’s a new time for our community and all I can do is help make that transition a smooth one to ensure that we have the best representation locally, provincially and nationally.”
For Cannan, Monday night marked the end of two straight decades of political service, first as a councillor and for the past nine-and-a-half years as an MP. His foray into the federal political game came when an opportunity was presented to him, rather than him chasing after the position.
“I was never partisan or belonged to a political party until I was asked in 2005 and joined the Conservative party,” said Cannan. “I worked with all political parties (during his nearly 10 years in Ottawa) and with members across the way (from other parties). I just want to continue to serve my community in the best way I can and have a normal life back with my wife and family and enjoy my three wonderful grandkids.”
The fact that Cannan continued to talk about serving his community in the immediate aftermath of what was a crushing and unexpected defeat is a window into the man who has served the communities of Kelowna and Lake Country for the past 20 years.
Donn said you’d be hard pressed to find someone who hasn’t been well-served by Cannan during his time in politics.
“I think at the end of the day you see how honourable a person Ron is when he graciously accepts democracy in action,” said Donn. “He was so responsive to anyone who reached out to him and every single person has the same thing to say. I think it leaves quite a legacy for this community and there is an opportunity for Stephen (Fuhr) to jump right in and be very responsive to the community. I was really happy to be there to support a friend. Ron was a friend of the community. At the same time having the Liberal party to commit to investing in infrastructure and to have us represented from someone from the government is a good thing for Kelowna.”