Toni Boot

Toni Boot will run for the New Democrats in the Penticton riding in the next provincial election, the party announced Wednesday.

Boot, who is two years into her term as Summerland mayor, said she intends to take a leave of absence from that post to run in the election, which is widely expected this fall.

During the 2018 municipal campaign, Boot committed to serving her full four-year term as mayor, but “times change,” she said in an interview Wednesday.

“I think that I’ve learned a lot in the two years as mayor, and one of the things I’ve learned is I can still advocate for Summerland and area in a different capacity in provincial government, and that’s really where the flow of resources comes from,” explained Boot.

She jumped into politics in 2014 as a Summerland councillor, and was later appointed to represent the community as a director on the board of the Regional District of Okanagan-Similkameen, a position she still holds.

Prior to public life, Boot, who grew up in Summerland, co-owned a dried fruit company and owned a garden centre.

Boot said she was the NDP’s only approved candidate for the Penticton riding, which includes Summerland and Peachland, so she was acclaimed to the position.

It was just the latest in a series of announcements this week from the NDP regarding new candidates and current MLAs who are retiring, which has only ratcheted up speculation an election is coming this fall, rather than as scheduled in October 2021.

Boot said she doesn’t know if there will be an early election, but is “aware of all the speculation that is out there.”

Penticton MLA Dan Ashton, who easily won a second term for the Liberals in 2017, said it’s time for Premier John Horgan to stop playing games with the election date.

“It’s my understanding the next election is in October next year, and I haven’t heard otherwise. If that isn’t true, I think it’s incumbent on the government to let everybody know what they’re up to,” Ashton said in an interview Wednesday.

“Fixed election dates were put in for a purpose: to keep the politics of opportunity away from elections.”

As for his new challenger, Ashton said he has worked well with Boot in their current capacities as elected officials, but he’s concerned the District of Summerland could be left rudderless if Boot goes on leave before council has a chance to find a new chief administrative officer to replace Anthony Haddad, who announced Tuesday he’s leaving for a job in Penticton.

Various versions of the Penticton riding have been held by Liberals since 1996. Ashton won the 2017 election with 53% of the popular vote, compared to 28% for runner-up Tarik Sayeed, who stepped away from his post as a Penticton city councillor to run provincially.

This article was updated with additional background and comments from Ashton and Boot