by Steve Kidd – Penticton Western News
The date for the next federal election remains the same, but Canadian voters are now in the longest election campaign in recent history.
Sunday, Aug. 2 marked the beginning of the 2015 federal election campaign, 11 weeks ahead of the scheduled election date of Oct. 19.
“Eleven weeks is a long time for people to listen to the campaigning and to see the signage littering the countryside,” said Liberal candidate Connie Denesiuk. “I think it is going to be wearisome for the public, but at the same time, I am excited to be kicking off the campaign locally.”
Across the country, 87 per cent of the ridings have had boundary changes, with Okanagan–Coquihalla split into two new ridings by drawing a new boundary between Summerland and Penticton, and merging the southern half with the West Kootenays.
With incumbent Conservative MP Dan Albas choosing to run in the new Central Okanagan-Similkameen-Nicola riding, and Alex Atamanenko, NDP incumbent for the former B.C. Southern Interior riding retiring, the field for the new South Okanagan West Kootenay riding was left open.
The three current challengers for the riding are Denesiuk, Marshall Neufeld for the Conservatives, Richard Cannings for the NDP and Brian Gray as an independent. The Green Party have yet to name a candidate for SOWK, but say they are planning to field a candidate.
Cannings said he expects the riding will see a hard fought race between the Conservatives and the NDP.
“It gives us a riding where we have a real chance of winning. We think we have a very good chance of defeating the conservatives here,” said Cannings.
Neufeld, who was selected as the Conservative candidate in 2014, has been campaigning for some time.
“I have been door-knocking for a couple of months now,” said Neufeld, adding that he doesn’t expect the lengthy election period to affect his plans, though he admits it will be a hard battle for the Conservatives to take the new riding. “It is certainly going to be a tighter race. I believe it is going to be a tight race between the leadership being offered by Stephen Harper and the economic and foreign affairs policies of Thomas Mulcair.”
Political pundits atthreehundredeight.com have SOWK heavily slanted to the NDP, projecting 47.5 per cent of the vote. Conservative is projected at 29.4 per cent, and Liberal at 13.2.
“If we had a NDP government under Tom Mulcair, just think of the changes that would happen,” said Cannings, pointing to policies like affordable child care and increased corporate income taxes. “The Conservatives have tried to paint themselves as good fiscal managers, but they have run seven consecutive deficits.
“The economy is faltering as the American economy is revving up to the south. It is really time for change.”
Denesiuk said the Liberal platform is geared towards change.
“Substantive change is what we need, is what I am hearing, and that is exactly what our plan is going to do,” she said. “Conservatives have the worst economic record since the 1930s. Our economy is in a dismal state and we have to get back on track.”
Neufeld describes himself as bringing both political and business experience, if elected.
“I have been in politics for 15 years now, starting off as a volunteering for Stockwell Day during his leadership race and having worked for 2.5 years as his parliamentary assistant in Ottawa. I understand well the duties and responsibilities of an MP,” he said. “I feel I am well positioned to be a strong voice advocating for the riding.”
Like Neufeld, Cannings has never been elected, though he has run for office for the B.C. NDP provincially. A noted author, he said his professional background as a biologist and ecologist set him apart.
“I think it would be really important to have more of a scientific voice in parliament,” said Cannings, adding that the Conservative government has been muzzling scientists for far too long as well as damaging laws protecting the environment. “I think we need to hear the voice of reason in our government.”
Denesiuk, a former school board chair, said that after serving on the boards of many advocacy groups has given her wide political experience.
“I know what it takes to represent people with a strong voice. I’ve done it at the provincial level, I have done it at the local level and I have done it at the national level,” she said. “This is a very diverse riding, with more than 40 communities. We need to bring the riding together and I am good at that.”
Independent candidate Brian Gray could not be reached for comment, but in his campaign literature he said he chose to run to “offer Canadians an alternative to the bankrupt and dying City of London/Wall Street Banking Empire and the desperate British/US/NATO axis’ unjustified and unwarranted war drive against Russia and China.”
“The underlying issue and critical imperative of my policy platform is for Canada to align with the BRICS (Brazil, Russia, India, China, South Africa) nations and to join the Chinese initiated (AIIB) the Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank,” wrote Gray.