Central Okanagan NDP candidates Tish Lakes (Kelowna-Mission) (left)

Tightening polls don’t worry NDPers

Local candidates says voters are telling them, they want change

If the Liberals closing the gap on the NDP as the election heads into its final week or a recent poll that says the Liberals are still strong in the Southern Interior are concerns for the three local NDP candidates, they are not letting on.

Mike Nuyens (Kelowna-Lake Country), Tish Lakes (Kelonwa-Mission) and Carole Gordon (Westside-Kelowna) insisted Monday what they are hearing on the doorstep as they campaign is that the public wants a change.

“It’s not a concern,” said Nuyens. “People are telling me they want a change and say they are tired of this (Liberal) government.”

The trio, all of whom are running against incumbent Liberal cabinet ministers in this election, say they believe their party’s message is resonating with voters, especially when it comes to key issues for this area like agriculture.

“The agriculture industry wants to move to our direction,” said Gordon. “They see our policies and platform as a benefit to them.”

And the NDP’s caucus chairman agrees.

Vancouver-Hasting’s incumbent NDP MLA Shane Simpson was in Kelowna Monday, here to support the candidates in several north, south and central Okanagan ridings.

Like the local trio, Simpson said he’s not concerned about the polls because historically provincial election poll numbers always tighten up as the vote nears.

“The reality is it’s hard to find any election in this province that hasn’t been decided by a handful of votes,” said the political veteran.

An Angus Reid poll released late last week put the Liberals seven points back of the NDP province-wide and well ahead in the Southern Interior, 42 per cent to 29 per cent. At the start of the campaign a few weeks ago, the Liberals were 14 points behind province-wide.

But Simpson said he not worried.

He said he believes all governments have a “shelf-life” and believes that shelf-life of the current Liberal government, which has been in power since 2001, ran out two years ago.

“The people of this province are looking for a change and that’s what we are offering them.”

According to the three local candidates, jobs tends to be a main topic of conversation on the doorstep.

And Gordon said that’s where the NDP promise to revamp the apprenticeship program will help.

She said while putting money into the skills training to create more spaces is important, so too is increasing the number of apprentices who pass and can move on to take good paying jobs in areas that are calling out for well-trained workers. She said only 34 percent of apprentices pass and that’s far from good enough.

Lakes said the issue of jobs ties in not only with skills training but also with keeping raw resources in B.C. rather than focusing on exporting them all overseas and also to the plans the NDP have to help the agriculture industry with its three-pronged approach to helping farmers, and promoting B.C.-grown products.

Criticizing the Liberals for a platform that he described as wait and see, Simpson said while the Liberals appear to be banking on the benefits of liquified natural gas to help the provincial economy,  those benefits are still years away.

He said he sees LNG as a “promising” industry, but not a panacea. Work,he said, needs to be done on environmental assessment, something the NPD says should be part of a made-in-B.C. solution whether the issue is pipelines or LNG.

He said according to the budget the Liberals handed down prior to the election campaign starting, the benefits of LNG won’t be seen until at least 2017.

“People need action now and our positions on skills training, forestry and education are all resonating with voters,” he said.

The provincial election goes May 14.