When successful Kelowna-Lake Country Liberal candidate Stephen Fuhr first sat down with the man who would become his campaign manager, Wayne Pierce told him he had a better chance of climbing Mt. Everest without oxygen than beating incumbent Conservative Ron Cannan.
A little over three months later, on Monday night with Pierce by his side, Fuhr made that climb — figuratively — by beating Cannan to become the first Liberal elected here since 1969.
And the first person Fuhr publicly thanked was Pierce.
In this election, Pierce, and his counterparts with the Conservative campaign, Ken Lang, and with the NDP, Maria Tokarchuk, played pivotal roles as not only the behind-the-scenes leaders but also as the chief strategists.
While the candidates were out front, it was the campaign managers who organized the Herculean efforts to try to get them elected, keep the campaigns on course, prepare their candidates and get them to the finish line.
This was no small feat in the longest federal election campaign this country has ever seen at 11 weeks.
“There’s really no secret to it,” said Pierce, a 69-year-old former banker and businessman who managed Kelowna Mayor Colin Basran’s successful civic election campaign last year.
“You need great volunteers, key people to lead (different aspects of the campaign) and rely on them to do their jobs.”
For Lang, who has managed three other federal election campaigns in the past, all in the Lower Mainland, the involvement of young people was also a highlight in this campaign.
Lang said all the talk of change likely resonated with young voters this time around and that seemed to account for much of their interest.
But he said the biggest factor in Cannan failing to hold on the seat that he first won in 2006 was likely the redrawing of the riding’s boundary that took an estimated 22,000 people out in Kelowna and placed them in the new Central Okanagan-Similkameen-Nicola riding.
While Tokarchuk could not be reached for this article, in this election the local NDP tripled its volunteer base and donations during the campaign, according to candidate Norah Bowman.
But it was not enough as Bowman came a distant third to Fuhr and Cannan.