ELECTION 2014: Fighting the stigma of being ‘also rans’ in Kelowna’s mayoral race

City of Kelowna: Six mayoralty contenders discuss why they ran and the challenge of being viewed as a lesser candidate

Mark Thompson

Mark Thompson has years of political experience under his belt, but that fact didn’t get the traction he expected as the campaigning process played out.

The semi-retired businessman and former Saskatoon councillor ran into roadblocks when he was trying to get his message to the community. Despite public requests for inclusion, he was left out from two mayoralty forums—the UDI and the Chamber of Commerce–and found himself deemed a “no-hoper.”

It was frustrating, but as time carried on, he believes he’s made progress with the community and broken down the barriers that held him back.

“On Saturday we’ll learn whether that progress is enough,” he said. “I accept Colin Basran and Sharon Shepherd are strong frontrunners as well, but I think that anything is possible.”

Where Thompson feels he made the most significant gains was a mayoralty forum hosted by media outlets CBC and Castanet. To date it’s had thousands of views, and Thompson said he performed well.

“When you look at the online comments (on Castanet), it’s clear I was the winner,” he said. “That is more of a realistic analysis of how the candidates performed than was unfortunately made out by some others.”

Thompson has also been campaigning on a one-to-one basis, and he’s come to believe that Kelowna wants change. There are plenty of contenders in the council race who could offer that, but the field of candidates is so wide that the electorate are overwhelmed and, in turn, disengaged.

Creating a conduit for further public engagement in the political process is one of the points of Thompson’s platform and he thinks that mindset could be applied to the electoral process as well.

“At the local level we need to elect a good cross section of councillors so we can hear the voices of the broad section of society,” he said, noting that party politics tend to block fair representation.

“I believe the ward system gives better representation, it’s closer to the people.”

He also said getting a message out in a city the size of Kelowna is “horrendously expensive” and the ward system would circumvent that.

To learn more about Thompson’s platform and see the forum he referred to go to www.electmarkthompson.com.

Sam Condy

Sam Condy  ran for the position of mayor alongside his father, Cal, who ran for a seat on council.

A website dedicated to their no-frills campaign focused heavily on four issues: Cedar Park, downtown parking, the tourist centre and senior management salaries at city hall.

Condy said he ran to teach the younger crowd that engaging in politics is doable, and being deemed frivolous by media outlets perverts that goal.

condynotcandy.weebly.com.

James Murphy

Each election season lures lesser known area residents into the spotlight to vie for a seat on city council.

Some call them “no hopes” but that’s far from the case for mayoral candidate James Murphy, 36.

This process has been all about Murphy’s hope to see more youth engagement in municipal politics. Although he’s not been able to participate in every forum he’s continually spread that message to younger people he’s met while travelling on area buses and while he is out and about.

“Voting matters. Every vote matters,”he said.

If Murphy is elected Saturday he would want to use his role to build a public transit advisory group that would focus on improving bus service in the area.

He’s also interested in working toward building a more wheelchair accessible Kelowna, an issue that is close to his heart.

Glendon Smedley

Glendon Smedley has a technical background and it’s through that lens he’s become critical of this city and its politics.

This election he didn’t focus too heavily on campaigning, he said, noting that he didn’t even put up signs.What he did pay attention to, however, was discussions about infrastructure development.

He joined the race for mayor to point out that discussions about a secondary bridge were wasteful, and shortsighted.

“It doesn’t solve any traffic issues with regards to reducing delays at a stop signs or a bus stops,” he said. “Plus, (building it) is such a long way off, traffic issues could be better resolved with better transportation networks, like a sky tram.”

Roads, he said, are more expensive to build than trams, and trams could generate income that could later help with social issues.

It’s a message that he’s not sure resonated with Kelowna residents, as the conversation was oftentimes dragged into other territory.

For that reason alone, Smedley isn’t sure he’d repeat the campaigning process.

“Kelowna gets to choose,” he said.

For more information on his platform go to www.kelowna.ca/CM/Page4740.aspx

Chuck Hardy

Chuck Hardy is a blunt-speaking man-of-the-people and that, in his estimation, is exactly what city hall needs.

“I ran for mayor because I want to represent all of Kelowna, including Rutland, and I think we need somebody to speak for regular people, not just the downtown businesses,” he said.

The lifelong Kelowna resident also embarked on this political journey when he became worried about future generations being saddled with the high cost of pensions for the many managers at city hall.

“I don’t want my kids and grandkids to pay for their pensions. It’s so gross. It’s scary,” he said.

Since he started campaigning, Hardy has handed out 4,000 business cards and spoken to countless Kelowna residents about both his ideas and what they want for the city.

In his estimation, that’s neither Sharon Shepherd nor Colin Basran.

One, he’s been told, has already had their day and the other is too closely aligned with the business community.

Whether they’ll vote for him Saturday, however, remains to be seen.

Hardy has been frustrated with the amount of attention focused solely on the Basran and Shepherd, and feels that the other six mayoral candidates didn’t get a fair shake in media outlets.

“Fair is fair,” he said, adding that local coverage has been anything but.

For more information about Hardy, his website is at http://chuckhardy.yolasite.com/

Kelly Row

Kelly Row has positioned himself as the spiritual choice in this election, but that’s not to say he hasn’t paid attention to the more earthly elements at play.

“I’ve been out campaigning on the street and now I have a way deeper understanding of the issues and what people are saying and thinking,” he said.

Each neighbourhood group has distinct concerns, which isn’t surprising. What has come as a shock is the discovery that so few are engaged with the political process.

“Even until this last week I have spoken with people who are surprised there’s even an election happening,” he said.

That’s not to say people don’t care about their community. He’s come to believe that the system doesn’t support engagement.

“There’s a real hunger for the voice of the people to be heard, and maybe taking a neighbourhood approach to dealing with issues would be better,” he said. “I’d be in favour of implementing a ward system. People say, ‘there are 31 names on the ballot for councillor, I don’t even know where to research them.’”

Lake Country is the only B.C. municipality that has a ward system, which basically allows for one elected representative from neighbourhoods around the city to sit on council. Another thing that He’d also like to widen the time frame between when candidates have filed their papers and the actual election takes place.

“The process was pretty tight,” he said. “I’d like to see the date moved back to give the candidates a bit more time to take part in more forums and events. I don’t think there was a good organized effort to get forums together, but it is what it is.” As for his chances to get the majority of voters onside with him, Row has faith.

“For me, I’m a believer in the lord above, and if he wants me in there I will be,” he said. “But it would be a shock if I win for most people.”

Regardless of the results Row is sure that Kelowna is ready for improvement.

“Everyone sees the potential,” he said. “I just hope we  meet it.” For more information go to www.kellyformayor.ca.

 

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