ONCE POLITICS gets into your blood, it’s hard to get it out. I can attest to that.
So too, apparently, can Steven Puhallo. Many may remember Puhallo as the North Shore Business Improvement Association (NSBIA) executive director in Kamloops from 2013 to 2017. Others will think of him as producer of Barriere’s New Year’s Eve Bullarama, or his family’s ranching past up the North Thompson.
Upon his return to Kamloops to work for the NSBIA, he kept involved in provincial politics. He was always a visible presence in various BC Liberal campaigns. He was involved so heavily that I remember seeing social media posts of him being singled out for recognition by then-Premier Christy Clark after the BC Liberal’s election win of 2013.
In 2016, he ran unsuccessfully against Peter Milobar for the BC Liberals’ nomination for Kamloops-North Thompson. After his loss of the nomination bid, Puhallo received a political appointment from Christy Clark to the local patient care quality review board.
He left the NSBIA in 2017 to become the President and CEO of Cowboy Gaming (Canada), an online gaming site. The company has a website and a Facebook site. But it doesn’t seem to have much more.
In any case, online gaming with a cowboy theme was apparently not a strong enough pull to keep Puhallo out of politics.
In May 2019, he joined Jason Kenney’s United Conservative Party’s (UCP) Alberta government as a political staffer when he took on the Chief of Staff to Minister of Children’s Services. That tenure lasted just nine months.
In January 2020, Puhallo took on a new role, according to his LinkedIn profile, as Director of Operations for the Alberta’s United Conservative Party Caucus.
It’s not surprising that Puhallo is back into politics in a big way. And on the side of government. Being in government in Alberta is surely a lot more fun than working for the opposition in B.C.
The real question is, will Puhallo be back in Kamloops to help in the next BC Liberal election. He’s been involved with the BC Liberals for decades. It’s hard to imagine him not wanting to come back to Kamloops to be involved in the 2021 B.C. provincial election. His roots are deep in Kamloops.
My bet is that he will come to B.C. for the provincial election. However, as much as Puhallo has deep roots in Kamloops, my bet is he won’t be spending his time campaigning for BC Liberal MLAs Peter Milobar or Todd Stone.
In 2017, Stone won his seat easily with a large majority.
Milobar won his seat with 48 per cent, with the next closest contender, BC NDP Barb Nederpal at 31 per cent, so it might make sense for Puhallo to help Milobar.
However, there are many other ridings far more likely to have much closer races. In Fraser-Nicola in 2017, BC Liberal Jackie Tegart won with 42 per cent of the vote over closest contender BC NDP Harry Lali at 38 per cent. Similarly, in Maple Ridge-Mission, BC Liberal Marc Dalton lost with 41 per cent of the vote to winner BC NDP Bob D’Eith at 42 per cent of the vote.
In 2017, the BC Liberals lost power by losing just four seats. The BC Liberals are putting considerable efforts into winning ridings that were won or lost with close margins. They are very aware that a few seats are all that is between them and regaining the reins of power.
Politics gets in one’s blood. It’s hard to imagine Puhallo won’t be back in B.C. when the 2021 provincial election gears up.
I predict Puhallo will be campaigning in one of the close ridings like Fraser-Nicola, Maple Ridge-Mission, Coquitlam-Burke Mountain or Richmond-Queensborough.
He’ll be back, trying to help the BC Liberals get four seats back from the BC NDP. And when he comes back from Alberta, I expect he’ll have some UCP Alberta colleagues following close behind.
Nancy Bepple is a former City councillor of Kamloops with a strong interest in community building projects.