With only two and a half weeks left until the federal election June 28, the candidates continue travelling the region, knocking on doors, marching in parades and participating in debates, writes Alex Rinfret.
As of Monday, there were five confirmed candidates in the race and one unconfirmed candidate, according to the Elections Canada office in Prince Rupert. The deadline for nominations has now passed.
The Observer caught up with each of the confirmed candidates and asked them where they’re heading this week and what they’re hearing from voters. (Disappointingly, none had firm plans to visit the islands before voting day.)
Liberal candidate Miles Richardson was in Terrace Monday, then planned to visit Smithers and Prince Rupert before flying to Vancouver to attend a First Nations Summit meeting Thursday. He will be back in Rupert Saturday and will be riding on a float in the Seafest parade.
Incumbent Andy Burton, the Conservative candidate, was also in Terrace Monday and planned to spend the week in the western part of the riding before appearing in the Seafest parade Saturday. He said he definitely wants to get over to the islands during the campaign, and is working on scheduling a visit.
The mood of the Conservative campaign was positive this week, as the party climbed higher than the Liberals in a national poll. “We’re going to form government, I’m sure of it,” Mr. Burton said.
NDP candidate Nathan Cullen was planning to welcome leader Jack Layton to Prince Rupert Monday afternoon, but
the plane was delayed. The next few days, Mr. Cullen will spend in Terrace and Kitimat, and then Mr. Cullen will also be appearing in the Seafest parade on the weekend: “It’s going to be just a riot.”
Mr. Cullen said he has knocked on close to 1,400 doors in the riding, and has found that he thoroughly enjoys campaigning. Voters are telling him that this election feels extremely uncertain, and that they are reluctant to vote for either the Liberals or the Conservatives. “People are furious, absolutely furious” about the Liberal scandals, he said, adding that much as he enjoys talking to voters, he would find it difficult to stand on any doorstep in the riding and campaign for the Liberals.
“Miles would have made a great NDP candidate,” he added.
Christian Heritage Party candidate Rod Taylor won’t be coming to the islands, although he is trying to visit as many communities as he can on a shoestring budget. Mr. Taylor said he took five weeks off work (he is employed as a grading instructor at a mill in Moricetown) to campaign, but the riding is simply too big to get everywhere.
He was planning to take part in a debate at a Christian school in Terrace on Wednesday, and spend some time knocking on doors in Kitimat. Sunday night he will be returning to Smithers for an all-candidates meeting.
Mr. Taylor said he finds door knocking somewhat difficult, but appreciates the chance to differentiate his party from the Conservatives. For example, he said, the Conservatives are trying to convince voters that they do not intend to change abortion laws although many in the party are pro-life, but the Christian Heritage Party is upfront about its stance that abortion is wrong. And while the two parties share the same view on same-sex marriage (it’s wrong), the CHP opposes it because it is against God’s intentions, while he feel the Conservatives are opposed simply because their constituents are, and not on principle.
He also had good things to say about the other candidates. “I have met the other four candidates and they all want to do something good for the people of Skeena-Bulkley Valley,” he said. “I think they’re making the sacrifices to give people a choice.”
Meanwhile, Green Party candidate Roger Benham had words of praise for Mr. Taylor, who has been giving him rides to all-candidates forums. “He’s a fine chap and he’s not judgmental,” he said. He also likes Nathan Cullen, and said the two of them have worked together on Smithers-area committees and probably agree on 99-percent of issues.
The main difference between the NDP and the Green Party, he said, is that the NDP likes big government while the Greens like decentralization, the Greens are very concerned about the poorest members of society, and the NDP does not “really” care about the environment.
Besides the debates (there has been one in Terrace and more are planned for Smithers, Burns Lake, Kitimat and Houston) Mr. Benham has not been doing much campaigning and does not like knocking on doors due to an injury received several years ago.
While the other parties like to talk about health care, he said, the important issues to the Green Party are oil depletion and global warming, which he said will soon bring an end to the way we live.
“These two issues are huge and no one wants to talk about them,” he said. “We live in amazing world of denial.”
This election is especially important because every party that gets at least two percent of the vote nationally will receive $1.75 per vote a year in federal funding. But that’s not the only reason to vote Green, Mr. Benham said.
“The only way to show your concern about the environment is to vote Green,” he said. “It’s not a wasted vote because the more votes the Green Party gets, the more the other parties adjust their policies.”
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