Candidates hit the campaign trail

This coming May, Canadians will be returning to the polls to elect a new federal government for the fifth time in a decade.

This coming May, Canadians will be returning to the polls to elect a new federal government for the fifth time in a decade.

Whatever form the new government takes, it is certain that there will be a new face representing Okanagan Coquihalla in Ottawa after the election. Declared candidates include David Finnis for the NDP, Dan Albas for the Conservatives and John Kidder, who won the Liberal nomination Monday. Dan Bouchard, who ran for the Green Party in 2008, is expected to announce his candidacy shortly.

That door to Parliament opened a crack earlier this month when MP Stockwell Day, who has strongly held the riding for the last decade, announced he would not be standing for re-election. While Day won the 2008 election for the Conservatives with more than 50 per cent of the popular vote, the candidates are hopeful that they will be able to swing some of Day’s votes to their party.

The Conservative-led minority government came to an end on March 18, when the opposition parties united to back a Liberal vote of non-confidence, placing the Conservative Party in contempt of Parliament for its refusal to share information that opposition members said they needed to properly assess legislation put before them.

Albas, who took the Conservative nomination last week after a short replacement process, said it is unfortunate that the opposition decided to force an election at this time, echoing the Conservative party line that no one wanted it, with the exception of the Liberal and NDP parties.

“In Okanagan Coquihalla, we’re ready to stand up and run an election at any time, said Albas. “But this is truly unfortunate that we are faced with an unnecessary and unwanted election.”

Finnis, who was also recently selected as a federal candidate for the NDP, said he has already been preparing for the campaign.

“It starts officially whenever the writ is dropped but we’ve been doing things for the last while,” said Finnis. “It has been pretty evident it was finally going to happen.”

Finnis thought he was going to be running against Day and admits he was surprised by the MP’s retirement announcement, though he is not unhappy about it.

“It equalizes the playing field somewhat,” Finnis said. He thinks the contempt of Parliament issue that brought down the Conservatives, along with other ethical issues that have been raised recently will be a big factor in the election campaign, as well as being a personal motivating factor.

“It certainly is the factor that brought me into the race, in the sense that I had been increasingly disgusted by their attitude,” said Finnis. “This is the first Canadian government to be found in contempt of Parliament, the first time in the Commonwealth, which is embarrassing on the world stage … it all ties into that whole question of trust and ethics.”

Kidder isn’t phased by the task of trying to sway a Conservative stronghold over to the Liberals, relying on three decades of work in the small business sector.

“It’s a big task,” said Kidder, who has been involved with technology startups throughout his career. “You always start off with a big vision that everyone says is impossible, that’s just the way it works. We’re in the same situation here, but it’s not impossible at all.”

The Liberal campaign, Kidder said, will reach out to voters, like young people and First Nations members, who haven’t been coming out to the polls. It’s also going to be a fun, exciting campaign, he said, with music and a little support from his family.

“I have a family that is full of interesting folks. My sister Margie (Margot Kidder, who played Lois Lane in the Superman movies) has been a Democratic activist for years in the States. Eric Peterson, who is my brother-in-law, made a big splash on Corner Gas (as Oscar Leroy); he’s also a great advocate for the arts.”

“If politics isn’t fun, people are going to choose not to be engaged with it,” said Kidder. “It has been dry debates from stuffy talking heads; well, we’re going to turn that on its ear.”