BC NDP leader John Horgan likes his party’s chances in the Central Okanagan, despite its unsuccessful political record.
“The candidate we have running (in Kelowna West) against our political vagabond premier, who ambled into town a few years ago, has deep roots in the community,” said Horgan at a Thursday morning town-hall meeting that had more members of the media in attendance than the public.
“(Shelley Cook) is well respected and well regarded and I am confident in her chances.”
He said he felt similarly about the other two Central Okanagan candidates who joined him.
Harwinder Sandhu, the candidate for the Kelowna Mission riding is a healthcare professional “with a good understanding of the issues in the area,” he said.
Erik Olesen, the candidate for Kelowna Lake Country, is the party’s “youth proxy (and) demonstrating that B.C. is a continuum of seniors and young people.”
“I’m very excited about our three candidates here and I’m very excited about our prospects,” Horgan said.
The Central Okanagan has often been called the “cradle of free enterprise” and the electorate has never sent a BC NDP member to Victoria.
When Clark lost her own riding of Vancouver Point-Grey in the July 2013 provincial election, it seemed like a foregone conclusion that she would head to valley and she did. During the Kelowna West by-election, she won with 62.8 per cent of votes. Her NDP competitor Carole Gordon was second, earning only 29.66 per cent of the vote.
Fellow BC Liberals, Steve Thompson in Kelowna Mission and Norm Letnick for Kelowna Lake Country each won their ridings during the election by 56 per cent.
That, said Horgan, doesn’t mean there won’t be change.
“I come from Vancouver Island that has a rich tradition of electing social democratic,” he said. “It becomes habit forming … we had a discussion last night with people saying I always voted Socred or Liberal because my grandparents did, and the answer that Shelley offered was ‘why don’t you vote NDP for your kids or your grandkids?’”
Changing entrenched behaviours, he said, will be the only way to bring needed improvements to the area.
“What did Einstein say? ‘If you keep doing the same things over and over again you’re going to get the same results,’” he said. “I believe the people of Kelowna are ready and willing to vote for people who are going to work for them.”
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Across every corner of B.C., he said, people are tired of a government that’s ignoring and neglecting them.
“We have candidates that are living, breathing examples of that and I know the people around this table and the people in Kelowna want to have someone that’s going to roll up their sleeves and work for them, not just the people who go to the big fundraisers,” he said.
The brief morning event was a clear sign that the election campaign was well underway, despite the fact the writ had yet to be dropped. That was something Horgan didn’t shy from.
“People said to me, ‘why are you starting so early?’ and I said …’Christy Clark only knows one speed and that’s campaign speed,’” he said. “She hadn’t been governing and she hasn’t been taking care of issues that matter to the people. So, we rolled out a pretty sweet looking bus a couple of days early and all of a sudden this is revolutionary.”
Horgan said he intends to speak with the electorate in their own communities “unapologetically.”
“We’re not going to run away and we’re going to lay out a platform that speaks to the need of communities and I’m excited about it,” he said.
When that platform will be released and in what fashion it may be distributed has yet to be revealed.
At the meeting, however, he focused his attention on seniors and families. Thousands of seniors are on wait lists for affordable housing, with waits for subsidized seniors housing taking longer than two years, he said.
He also said they have a plan to start $10 a day childcare. It’s something, he said, that would help all seniors
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