Justin Trudeau and his wife Sophie Gregoire Trudeau address the crowd at B.C. Day celebrations in 2018 at Gyro Park in Penticton.

Expect to hear a lot about Justin Trudeau as the federal election campaign heats up in South Okanagan-West Kootenay.

The first shot – if you can call it that – was fired this week by Conservative challenger Helena Konanz.

She issued a press release Monday that boldly calls for no less than 12 debates across the vast riding, which stretches from Penticton to Castlegar.

The release says people are looking for an alternative to “Justin Trudeau and his Liberal government,” and refers to Liberal contender Connie Denesiuk not by name, but as “Justin Trudeau’s candidate.”

Obviously the Conservatives believe the Liberals’ weak link is their leader and will try to exploit it.

Conservative MP Dan Albas has been doing that for years in his weekly column, and more recently caused a stir on Twitter by pointing out that Denesiuk had removed a picture of Trudeau that had adorned her campaign car.

CBC actually took that tempest in a teapot and turned it into a story in which Denesiuk explains she went with the picture of Trudeau for the 2015 election because she was a relative newcomer. Now she’s going with a bigger picture of herself and the “Team Trudeau” on the hood of her car.

Ginny Manning, who’s on Denesiuk’s campaign team, last week tweeted a link to another story on the brouhaha and commented that while the Conservatives are focused on the Liberal candidate’s car, the “Liberal candidate is focused on the issues of the people of the South Okanagan West Kootenay.”

It was a good comeback and one we’ll probably hear often this fall as Denesiuk tries to keep her leader out of the debates.

— City editor Joe Fries