A new heavyweight has just stepped into the ring and former Cranbrook mayor Wayne Stetski is ready to fight.

After a surprise defeat in the November municipal elections, Stetski hasn’t missed a beat. His series of letters to the editor challenging Canada’s status quo have run in Kootenay newspapers over the last few months (see next page for the latest installment) — the perfect prequel to this week’s announcement that he will run for Member of Parliament for the federal NDP in the Kootenay-Columbia riding come election time.

With a platform founded on public disgruntlement with the Conservative government and Prime Minister Stephen Harper’s long reign, Stetski seems to have found his stride. And criticizing Wilks for being a yes man will undoubtedly win him some votes.

But Stetski’s challenge is less about undercutting the Wilks and the Conservative Party, and more about unifying opposition so that his party emerges victorious from the trenches after the ballots are counted — a challenge he is already incorporating as part of his campaign strategy. In the official press release announcing his intention to run, Stetski states:  “It is clear that if we want to defeat the Conservatives in this area we will all need to work together to elect an NDP MP.”

In 2011, Wilks took the Kootenay-Columbia riding with a staggering 24,000 or so votes. Then-NDP candidate Mark Shmigelsky managed to wrangle only about 14,000 away from his competition. Add the Liberal, Green and Independent votes for an overall non-Conservative total just shy of 19,000.

So in order to win this year, Stetski’s “anything but Conservative” approach will need to sway not only Liberal and Green loyalists, but dissatisfied Conservative voters.

With the Kootenay-Columbia riding expanding to include left-leaning Nelson, Salmo and Kaslo,  there is some momentum on his side, but Stetski’s overall success will really rely on how unpopular the Conservatives and their policies become between now and October.