There’s nothing like a big community event during an election campaign to bring out political candidates.
With votes on the line in the upcoming Westside-Kelowna byelection, the candidates were out in force at Westside Daze over the long weekend, shaking hands, kissing babies—figuratively—and doing what any self-respecting candidate would do—begging for support.
To Premier Christy Clark’s credit, she not only went door-knocking herself, she also accepted an invitation to debate her challengers in the upcoming all-candidates debate July 4.
A few weeks ago, I wrote a column saying she should buck the tradition set by her predecessors over the last 30 years that has not seen a sitting B.C. premier debate a challenger at the riding level in an election or byelection campaign.
And last week, I was critical of her for appearing to opt for the photo op instead of talking directly to residents on the doorstep—something she said she wanted to do a lot of when she announced she was running here. But over the week she did just that.
I can’t take any credit for either of those moves. Clark is a much shrewder politician than I will ever be. But in both cases, it was the right move as it benefits all voters to hear directly from all the candidates.
Talking of getting the message out, B.C. Conservative Sean Upshaw hit the street running over the weekend, kicking it off with 10 hours straight of door-knocking. He said he hit 280 doors last Friday alone and the number one issue he’s hearing about is jobs.
Meanwhile, NDP candidate Carole Gordon used the man who defeated Clark in Vancouver-Point Grey in last month’s provincial election, David Eby, to bolster her campaign over the weekend. Eby joined Gordon in the Westside Daze parade and during her campaigning later in the day.
It was a symbolic message to voters that despite the feeling by some Westside-Kelowna is a “safe” Liberal seat, Clark can be beaten. Jag Bhandari, of the B.C. Vision, and independents Dayleen Van Ryswyk, John Marks, Korry Zepik and Silvarado Socretes are also running in the byelection.
With eight days to go in the campaign, the quest for votes is really heating up. But with summer here, the sun shining, kids out of school and many families looking forward to a trip to the beach rather than another jaunt to the ballot box, how many will bother to cast a vote is anyone’s guess.
The general election on May 14 could only attract 49 per cent of those eligible to vote in the riding out to the polls. Will a race that includes a B.C. premier seeking a local seat in the legislature and seven opponents trying to deprive her of that—for a second time in less than two months—be any more enticing?
Alistair Waters is the assistant editor of the Capital News