Conservative MP incumbent Dan Albas.

Local Conservative candidates won’t be muzzled

Incumbent Central Okanagan MPs Dan Albas and Ron Cannan say they haven't seen party campaign directive to ignore the media.

The two incumbent Conservative MP candidates for the two Centreal Okanagan ridings refuse to be muzzled by their party’s election strategists.

Despite national news stories saying Conservative candidates across the country have been told by the party not to participate in all-candidates’ meetings or talk to the media during the current federal election campaign, Dan Albas and Ron Cannan both say they haven’t been given—and would not agree with—any such an directive.

Both Ron Cannan (Kelowna-Lake Country) and Dan Albas (Central Okanagan-Similkameen-Nicola) told the Kelowna Capital News they plan to participate in several all-candidates meetings over the next few weeks and will respond as quickly as possible to all media requests for interviews.

“I’ve never had anybody (from the party) say ‘do this’ or ‘don’t do that,’” said Albas.

He expects to participate in twice the number of all-candidates meetings during this campaign than he did in the 2011, when he won the old Okanagan-Coquihalla riding for the Conservatives.

Cannan said he felt it’s important to be as transparent as possible when running for public office, citing his availability to the media over his past nine years as both an MP and during the first four weeks of this federal election campaign as examples of his philosophy.

Cannan listed plans he has been told of by several local groups—including the Kelowna Chamber of Commerce, a local radio station, the area chapter of the Canadian Association of Retired Persons and UBCO—to hold all-candidates meetings.

Cannan reiterated he will participate in as many as he can.

Last week, the Toronto Star reported Conservative Party officials have told Tory candidates not to talk to the media or participate in all-candidates meetings during the campaign.

And since then, numerous examples have been made public of other Conservative candidates doing just that. Earlier this week, the Ottawa Citizen said it contacted the 318 Tory candidates currently listed on the party’s website and only 14 responded favourably to an interview request.

Six candidates personally called back and eight others had their staff arrange an interview. Ten candidates refused outright and, according to the paper, the  other 278, did not respond.

Cannan and Albas were not listed as candidates who responded one way or the other.

The Toronto Star story quoted an unnamed Conservative Party insider saying the message to the Tory flag-bearers in this camapign has been “no debates and no media.”

It highlighted the case of an Ontario candidate, Joe Daniel, the former Don Valley East MP who is running in the new Don Valley North riding. The newspaper could not reach Daniel despite repeated attempts.

A volunteer on Daniel’s campaign reportedly told the newspaper speaking to the Toronto Star may not have been a priority for Daniel at that time and it may it would be in future.

“Just give him time. He will approach you,” the newspaper quoted the unidentified volunteer as saying.

“We don’t go by your deadlines, sir. We go by our deadlines and you don’t happen to accept that.”

Daniel’s campaign had already told the Ottawa Citizen that the backbencher would not be do any media interviews until after the election.

Also last week, the Conservative candidate in Nanaimo-Ladysmith on Vancouver Island told organizers of an all-candidates meeting in the riding he would not attend and would not give interviews until after the election, if he won.

But Cannan and Albas both said they would not take that tack.

“I always try to make myself available (to the media),” said Cannan.

As for Albas, he pointed to his recent joint news conference with the Green Party candidate in the riding to raise awareness about the boundaries of the new Central Okanagan-Similkameen-Nicola riding in Kelowna as a recent example of his availability.

Cannan was also at that news conference.