A few weeks back, my editor asked me to do a “streeter” and find out if residents of Kelowna think it is possible for anyone other than the Conservatives to win in this riding.
A streeter, in our business, is when you grab your less than enthralled cameraman and head out onto the sidewalk to accost perfect strangers for the information most Canadians consider impolite to raise over dinner.
We run the question, with a mugshot of the victim, sorry respondent.
While it may not sound like it, it can actually be kind of fun and a good read.
So, with high hopes of turning the assignment around in 20 minutes, I strolled along the Pandosy shopping district, stalking interesting clothing and literally chasing down the odd dude who happened to be out mid-afternoon.
The results were a little disturbing. To a one, they said: “No. No one other than the Conservatives can get in.”
As a result, my victims either would opt to not vote, vote Green to get the party its federal funding, spoil the ballot or (this one got me) acquiesce and go along with the others by throwing in a blue vote.
Personally, I don’t care if anyone chooses to vote Conservative or not, but I kind of like the idea that when we go to the polls, we’re there to make a choice.
Instead, it would appear, we live in a town where perfectly nice, law-abiding citizens regularly abdicate any responsibility for deciding on their federal political choices simply because it’s what we do.
Life is not like this in city politics. Having covered City Hall for four years, I can tell you many, many people in this town are involved in local decision-making to a mind-blowing extent.
So many people try to run in elections here that it’s almost impossible to give everyone their due.
And while voter turnout at the local level is actually far worse than federal and provincial politics, many people vote with their own mouths, coming out to harangue and harass the individuals who do sit on council so often that one can basically expect a controversy a season.
Then you take federal politics and, well, you can almost see our collective shoulders slump.
In the sports world, I think they call this down for the count, but if the Canucks have shown us anything this year, last ditch comebacks do occur.
And I think we’re on the cusp of one. Many a squared off expert has been spouting the impacts of the university, saying the Conservative stranglehold is not to last long—and they’re probably right.
But I question whether it’s because of the oft-exalted influx of educated people. For some reason, people who are well-educated in the textbook, university-going, degree-granting way, tend to believe it’s the end-all-be-all for decision-making.
But really, farmers know their politics far
better than most of the students I’ve talked to on that campus, as do small-business owners (with or without degrees), single-mothers (ditto) and so forth.
The thing is, one has to have a viable alternative to vote for, whether you’re white collar or blue collar.
If you read a newspaper or go to an all-candidates meeting, you are far more likely to change your vote if the person you see up there is running circles around their opponent, but that hasn’t been the case in this riding for years.
This is where the influence of the university comes in. While the three opposing parties currently shoe-horn in a martyr each election, in less than 10 years time some very well-educated young people, who have been training to become our politicians, will be sitting on that stage duking it out.
Up-and-comers in the Liberal Party include people like Crystal Wariach, who ran once for city council, once for the provincial Greens and has been a Liberal since she was 17 years old.
Similar track record for Kevin Craig, a Liberal who became our youngest city councillor and who says he’s aiming to become prime minister.
Angela Reid has spent the last decade running in elections. She now sits on city council and has pretty well dedicated the majority of her life to politics.
The NDP’s campaign was run by a young man, Sean Russo.
I could go on, but there really are too many other examples out there to count. Training for a job is not a bad thing.
Whether you’re an aesthetician or cardiologist, learning how to do the specific task you’re hired to do before you get there is really just common sense.
Politics requires people who can read a lot of material, build an argument, think on their feet and understand their own community.
This, to me, is how the university will change our landscape—it will give local kids the tools to provide a healthy political landscape.
And with that will come the end of the guaranteed Conservative mandate.