Richard Cannings (British Columbia politician)

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Richard Cannings

Member of the Canadian Parliament
for South Okanagan—West Kootenay
Assumed office
October 19, 2015
Preceded byAlex Atamanenko
Personal details
Born (1954-03-31) March 31, 1954 (age 65)
Penticton, British Columbia
Political partyNew Democratic Party
ProfessionBiologist, author

Richard J. "Dick" Cannings MP (born March 31, 1954) is a Canadian biologist, author and politician. He is currently serving as the South Okanagan—West Kootenay member of parliament in the 42nd Canadian Parliament. He was elected to that position in the 2015 Canadian federal election as a member of the New Democratic Party. During that parliament he sponsored three private member bills: one to promote the use of wood in federal public works projects, one to add various lakes and rivers to Navigable Waters Protection Act, and another to a Minister of Environment to respond to a Committee on the Status of Endangered Wildlife in Canada report. Cannings was appointed the NDP Critic for Post-Secondary Education as well as the Deputy Critic for Natural Resources in the 42nd Canadian Parliament.[1]

Prior to being elected as a member of parliament, Cannings unsuccessfully sought election as a member of the legislative assembly of British Columbia in the 2013 BC election. Prior to his involvement in politics, Cannings worked as a biologist specializing in birds, taught at the University of British Columbia for 17 years, authored numerous books about birds and natural history, and was a member of the Committee on the Status of Endangered Wildlife in Canada for 8 years. He is an alumnus of Memorial University of Newfoundland and the University of British Columbia.


Like their father, renowned environmentalist Stephen Cannings, Richard and his twin brother Sydney and their older brother, Rob, were born and raised in Penticton and all pursued careers in biology.[2] Richard earned a master's degree in zoology from Memorial University of Newfoundland. He taught for 17 years at University of British Columbia before returning to Penticton in 1995 to work as a consulting biologist, including doing work for the non-profit Bird Studies Canada. He spent 8 years on the Committee on the Status of Endangered Wildlife in Canada, 11 years on B.C. Environmental Appeal Board and five on the B.C. Forest Appeals Commission.[3] He was a board member of the Nature Conservancy of Canada from 2006 to 2015.

Cannings authored or contributed to numerous books. In 1987 he co-authored with his brothers Birds of the Okanagan Valley, British Columbia which was published by the Royal British Columbia Museum.[4] Based on previous work, he co-authored Birds of Southwestern British Columbia[5] and Birds of Interior BC and the Rockies[6] In 2007 Greystone Books published a memoir style book of essays by Cannings titled An Enchantment of Birds: Memories From A Birder's Life[7] and in 2010 Greystone published a book of essays, titled Flights of Imagination: Extraordinary Writing about Birds, edited by Cannings.[8] Co-authored with his son, Cannings contributed to Birdfinding in British Columbia and Best Places to Bird in British Columbia, both also published by Greystone.[9]


At 58 years old Cannings entered politics in 2012 seeking the British Columbia New Democratic Party nomination in the Penticton riding for the next provincial election. Cannings won the nomination over Summerland councillor David Finnis.[10] However, in the May 14, 2013, general election Cannings lost to Penticton mayor Dan Ashton of the BC Liberal Party, which went onto to form a majority government with the BC NDP as the official opposition.

Cannings continued with politics by seeking the federal NDP nomination in the South Okanagan—West Kootenay riding for the next federal election. He won the nomination over Margaret Maximenko of Christina Lake.[11] In the October 19, 2015, general election, the 61 year old Cannings faced realtor Marshall Neufeld of the Conservative Party, Okanagan Skaha School District trustee Connie Denesiuk for the Liberal Party, Green Party candidate Samantha Troy and independent candidate Brian Gray. With 37% of the vote, Cannings won the riding though his party became the third party with the Liberal Party winning a majority government.

During ensuing 42nd Parliament Cannings was appointed by NDP leader Thomas Mulcair as their critic on post-secondary education issues and deputy critic of natural resources under Carol Hughes.[12] He served the entire Parliament on the Standing Committee on Natural Resources. Cannings sponsored three private member bills. On April 13, 2017, he introduced Bill C-354 which would amend the Public Works and Government Services Act which would promote the use of wood in federal public works projects. Similar bills had previously been introduced by Claude Patry and Gérard Asselin in the 41st and 40th Parliaments, respectively. The bill was passed by the House of Commons with support from all parties except the Conservative Party but was blocked from proceeding in the Senate by the Conservatives.[13][14] In response to the previous parliament's Jobs and Growth Act, Cannings second private member bill, Bill C-360, sought to re-insert several lakes and rivers such as Skaha Lake, Vaseux Lake, Tuc-el-nuit Lake, Osoyoos Lake, Christina Lake, Okanagan River, Slocan River, Kettle River, and Granby River back into the Navigable Waters Protection Act.[15] However, Bill C-360 did not advance past first reading as the government bill C-69 was amending the same act to re-define what water bodies and watercourses are deemed to be reviewable as navigable waters. He introduced his third private member bill, Bill C-363,[16] on September 22, 2017, as a response to the practice used by the Ministers of Environment in the 28th Canadian Ministry between 2011 and 2015 of avoiding listing species in the Species at risk Public Registry by not notifying the Governor in Council of reports received from the Committee on the Status of Endangered Wildlife in Canada. Though Bill C-363, which would require the Minister notify the Governor in Council and recommend to list a species or not, did not advance but it was adopted as a Ministry of Environment operational policy.[17][18]

In the 2019 Canadian federal election, Cannings is seeking re-election in the South Okanagan—West Kootenay riding but is being contested by Penticton city councillor Helena Konanz of the Conservative Party, Tara Howse of the Green Party, Sean Taylor of the People's Party, as well as Connie Denesiuk again for the Liberal Party.[19]

Electoral record[edit]

2015 Canadian federal election: South Okanagan—West Kootenay
Party Candidate Votes % ±% Expenditures
New Democratic Richard Cannings 24,823 37.28 -2.16 $120,417.22
Conservative Marshall Neufeld 19,871 29.84 -14.93 $156,966.44
Liberal Connie Denesiuk 18,732 28.13 +21.03 $26,034.25
Green Samantha Troy 2,792 4.19 -3.94 $153.48
Independent Brian Gray 376 0.56 $115.36
Total valid votes/Expense limit 66,594 100.00   $247,730.42
Total rejected ballots 216 0.32
Turnout 66,810 73.67
Eligible voters 90,694
New Democratic notional gain from Conservative Swing +6.39
Source: Elections Canada[20][21]
2013 British Columbia general election: Penticton
Party Candidate Votes % ±%
Liberal Dan Ashton 11,536 45.85 +1.86
New Democratic Richard Cannings 10,154 40.35 +9.20
Conservative Sean Upshaw 2,288 9.09 +0.35
BC First Doug Maxwell 1,185 4.71 -
Total valid votes 25,163 100.00
Total rejected ballots 173 0.68
Turnout 25,336 58.27
Source: Elections BC[22]


  • Birds of the Okanagan Valley, British Columbia - 1987[23]
  • Birds of Southwestern British Columbia - 2005[24]
  • The Rockies: A Natural History - 2005[25]
  • An Enchantment of Birds - 2007[26]
  • Birds of Interior BC and the Rockies - 2009[27]
  • Roadside Nature Tours through the Okanagan - 2009[28]
  • Flights of Imagination - 2010[29]
  • Geology of British Columbia: A Journey Through Time - 2011[30]
  • Birdfinding in British Columbia - 2013[31]
  • The New BC Roadside Naturalist - 2014[32]
  • British Columbia: A Natural History - 2015[33]
  • Birds of British Columbia and the Pacific Northwest - 2016[34]


  1. ^ Kirkup, Kristy (12 November 2015). "Tom Mulcair taps Nathan Cullen, Charlie Angus, Guy Caron for top critic roles". CBC News. The Canadian Press. Retrieved 12 November 2015.
  2. ^ Langerak, Joyce (July 24, 2017). "Stephen Cannings was one of the South Okanagan's greatest environmentalists". Penticton Herald. Retrieved July 27, 2019.
  3. ^ Bitonti, Daniel (May 2, 2013). "Fresh face aims to enlighten them with science". The Globe and Mail. p. S3.
  4. ^ Cannings, Robert A; Cannings, Richard J; Cannings, Sydney G (1987). Birds of the Okanagan Valley, British Columbia. Victoria, British Columbia: Royal British Columbia Museum. ISBN 9780771886010.
  5. ^ Cannings, Richard; Opperman, Hal; Aversa, Tom (2005). Birds of Southwestern British Columbia. Victoria, British Columbia: Heritage House Publishing. ISBN 9781894974592.
  6. ^ Cannings, Richard; Nehls, Harry B.; Trochlell, Dave; Denny, Mike (2009). Birds of Interior BC and the Rockies. Victoria, British Columbia: Heritage House Publishing. ISBN 9781894974592.
  7. ^ "A Birder's Life: The Wonder of it All". The Hamilton Spectator. Hamilton, Ontario. December 1, 2007. p. D14.
  8. ^ Boodman, Eric (May 23, 2010). "Cheep thrills Books for bird-watchers". Ottawa Citizen. Ottawa, Ontario. p. A8.
  9. ^ Watson, Bridgette (May 14, 2017). "New book reveals best places for B.C. birdwatching". CBC News. Retrieved July 30, 2019.
  10. ^ "NDP will nominate Penticton candidate on Sunday". Penticton Western News. Penticton, BC. November 15, 2012. p. 8.
  11. ^ "Penticton candidate seeks NDP role". Trail Times. Trail, British Columbia. January 15, 2014. p. A3.
  12. ^ Boyd, Dale (November 26, 2015). "Cannings officially sworn in at the Hill". Penticton Western News. Penticton, BC.
  13. ^ Nesteroff, Greg (July 6, 2019). "Richard Cannings: How my private member's bill died in the Senate". Castlegar News. Castlegar, British Columbia.
  14. ^ Smith, Marie-Danielle (June 20, 2019). "Dozens of bills, including on sexual assault and UNDRIP, die in Senate amid Conservative filibuster". National Post. Retrieved July 27, 2019.
  15. ^ "Bill C-360 An Act to amend the Navigation Protection Act (certain lakes and rivers in British Columbia)". Parliament of Canada. April 14, 2017. Retrieved July 28, 2019.
  16. ^ "Bill C-363 An Act to amend the Species at Risk Act (amendment of the List)". Parliament of Canada. September 22, 2017. Retrieved July 31, 2019.
  17. ^ Pinn, Larry (April 18, 2019). "'It just takes too damn long': How Canada's law for protecting at-risk species is failing". The Narwhal. Retrieved July 31, 2019.
  18. ^ Cannings, Richard (September 27, 2017). "Returning Species at Risk Act to original intent". Trail Times. Trail, British Columbia. p. A6.
  19. ^ Patton, Kristi (July 30, 2019). "Konanz issues challenge to South Okanagan-West Kootenay candidates". Penticton Western News. Retrieved August 5, 2019.
  20. ^ Elections Canada – Confirmed candidates for South Okanagan—West Kootenay, 30 September 2015
  21. ^ Elections Canada – Preliminary Election Expenses Limits for Candidates
  22. ^ "Statement of Votes - 40th Provincial General Election" (PDF). Elections BC. Retrieved 17 May 2017.
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