Campaign off to slow start

  • Wed Sep 17th, 2008 6:00am
  • News

MP Nathan Cullen has been criss-crossing the vast Skeena-Bulkley Valley riding since the federal election was called 11 days ago, meeting with voters and preparing for a series of all-candidates debates which will be held over the next few weeks in communities from Fort St. James to Prince Rupert. “I’ve been on the road every day,” Mr. Cullen told us Monday morning from Terrace. “I’ve got my Subaru set up just like a little apartment.” The NDP candidate said this election campaign feels different from the 2004 and 2006 campaigns. After two terms as the Skeena-Bulkely Valley MP, he’s established and doesn’t have to spend as much time introducing himself to voters, which gives him more time to listen to the issues. Mr. Cullen said he is hoping to get over to Haida Gwaii before the Oct. 14 election but doesn’t have a firm date yet. He spent almost a week here in late August, attending the Kaay centre grand opening and the Haida children’s homecoming feasts in Old Massett and Skidegate. Meanwhile, CPAC, the Canadian political TV channel, is sending a reporter up to this riding to follow Mr. Cullen around. “They’re intrigued by how you campaign in a place like this,” he said. The Green Party candidate, Hondo Arendt of Prince Rupert, doesn’t plan to do quite as much travelling as Mr. Cullen. For one thing, he has a full-time job as a political science professor at Northwest Community College. For another, he has limited funds and staff. “I will not be doing much,” he said candidly, although he does plan to attend several all-candidates debates. “We’ll try to get out as many signs and brochures as we can.” In keeping with Green party principles, the party will be reusing signs from the 2005 provincial election and any new signs will be designed so they can be reused in the future, he said. Mr. Arendt, who ran for the Greens in the last provincial election, said this campaign is more intense. The federal riding is much larger and he has already done several media interviews. Also, it seems that the party has a higher profile. “I’ve noticed in the general public there seems to be a lot more recognition,” he said. “A lot of people seem to have herd a lot more about us and about Elizabeth May.” A Green vote is no longer a wasted vote, he said, with the party poised to perhaps win seats for the first time ever. Asked why someone should consider voting Green, Mr. Arendt responded, “It’s the wisest choice, it’s the one party that looks at the long term rather than the short term.” The Greens are concerned about several issues which are not even on the radar for other parties, he said, like the amount of plastic being discarded, the skyrocketing rates of asthma and diabetes and how best to keep our food supply safe. On Monday, Mr. Arendt invited Liberal candidate Corinna Morhart, who also lives in Prince Rupert and is a former student of his, to talk to his political science class. He said he will do the same with the other candidates when they campaign in Rupert. The Observer has been trying to contact Ms Morhart but so far has not been successful. Even the Liberal party headquarters in Vancouver could not provide a phone number for her when we called. Conservative candidate Sharon Smith was too busy door-knocking to talk to us in time for this week’s issue but will be in touch later this week. Campaign manager Natasha Beaton said Ms Smith is tentatively planning to travel to the Charlottes Sept. 27 for an event in Skidegate, but this has not been confirmed. Ms Smith is the mayor of Houston but has taken a leave of absence from her council duties during the federal campaign, Ms Beaton said.