by P.J. Harston
Northern News Services
NNSL (NOV 20/96) - They have a constituency association, an enthusiastic executive and even a few fervent members.
But what the Western Arctic Progressive Conservative's don't have is a candidate for the next federal election, which could come as early as the spring.
"There's one person from the north end of the riding who's curious and interested ... and there are two in Yellowknife who are interested," said association vice-president Jack Walker.
"And there's one from the southern part of the riding who has shown interest," he told association members at its annual general meeting, Monday night.
Walker explained that the Western Arctic Tories are in a Catch-22 situation.
"Potential supporters won't commit until a candidate has been chosen, and candidates are hesitant to commit until they see what support is out there.
"At some point we have to say this is the end of the (candidate) search," he said.
The 17 members in attendance agreed and set March as the deadline for picking a candidate.
But that most likely will occur after the association's major fundraiser, planned for late January or early March.
Veteran Tory adviser and pundit Hugh Segal will be on hand for the fundraising dinner, which organizers hope kicks a hobbling membership drive into high gear.
"For the last two to three months we've been selling memberships and we've got about 50 new members now," said association secretary David Ramsay.
"But as we get closer to election time, I'm sure we'll get more names and numbers," he added.
Members agreed that the party is still in rough shape following an election that saw the Tories all but eliminated from the House of Commons.
However, they also noted that many supporters who voted for the Reform Party or Liberals in the last election are coming back to the Tory side.
"A lot of them are annoyed with the credit card caper ... and they want us to take on the Liberals," said association director Wayne Bryant.
He was referring to incumbent Liberal MP Ethel Blondin-Andrew's recent run-in with the Reform Party and the national media over her use of government credit cards for personal expenses.
"One, one-and-a-half years ago there was nothing there," Bryant said about PC support in the North. "I'd say there's a growing interest out there now."