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UPDATE: Saip 'ready' for possible election

If the federal government asks Canadians to go to the polls this spring, newly elected Conservative candidate Dale Saip says he is "ready to do whatever I need to do."

The Delta Board of Education chair won the nomination to represent the federal Conservative Party in Delta-Richmond East Monday night, just nine days after Prime Minister Stephen Harper announced current MP John Cummins, along with fellow MPs Stockwell Day and Chuck Stahl, will not stand for re-election.

The typically two-month-long nomination and membership drive process was compressed into one week so the riding has a candidate should the House fall.

"I don't think I've ever shirked away from a challenge or a game-time decision. Whatever I'm called on to do I'm going to do," Saip said.

After four counts of the ballots on Monday, Saip finished with 78 votes, while second-place Richmond lawyer Kerry-Lynne Findlay received 66 votes in the single transferable ballot system whereby voters rank candidates in order of preference.

Eliminated in the previous rounds of vote counting were former Delta Chamber of Commerce president Maria DeVries, Richmond realtor Keith Roy, and Howard Jampolsky, who is on the Conservative Delta-Richmond East board of directors.

Only those signed up as party members since before Feb. 25 were allowed to take part in the vote. Of 500 eligible voters in the riding, just under 150 cast their ballots Monday night.

Riding president Don Brooks said he was "ecstatic" with the turnout, given the short notice, and estimated at least 200 people were seated in the meeting room at Ladner's Sundance Inn, with 100 more standing.

"That was a very powerful show of democracy and action," Brooks said.

In his candidate speech, Saip, 51, talked about his family's farming roots in Southern Saskatchewan.

"My heritage is of conservative values and so is my heart. I value family, fiscal responsibility and small government that lets people make their own choices," he told the crowd.

Born and raised in Richmond, Saip now lives in Tsawwassen with his wife.

He was first elected to the Delta school board in 1987 and has served six terms as chair. He has also served six terms as president of the Ladner Business Association, is on the board of the Greater Vancouver Food Bank Society, and is vice-president of business development for the Vancouver Giants.

"This riding deserves an experienced political veteran that has served and been elected, not someone that will need on-the-job training," he said.

He told voters he believes Canada needs a majority Conservative government and said one of his goals is to ensure the Liberals do not roll back tax cuts.

If elected, Saip said major issues affecting Delta-Richmond East he will bring to Ottawa are making fisheries healthy, protecting agriculture in the face of urbanization, and developing a strong, sustainable economy.

Outgoing MP John Cummins, 69, was first elected MP in Delta in 1993. He did not attend the candidates' meeting because of his duties in Ottawa, but left a letter which Don Brooks read aloud.

In the note, Cummins said he had received several complaints about a phone message "in which it could be inferred" he was "supporting a particular candidate." But Cummins ensured he "deliberately maintained a neutral position throughout the nomination process" and favoured no one.

Cummins has told The South Delta Leader he has been receiving support to make the switch to provincial politics and take on the role as leader of the B.C. Conservative Party.

-with files from Philip Raphael

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