ELECTION 2015: South Okanagan – West Kootenay riding is a battleground

Coming into the final days of the election campaign, it can seem like everyone wants to tell you who to vote for.

Coming into the final days of the election campaign, it can seem like everyone wants to tell you who to vote for.

Marshall Neufeld recently received an endorsement from former Okanagan-Coquihalla MP Stockwell Day and Justin Trudeau would certainly like to see you cast your vote for Connie Denesiuk. The recently-formed GreenPac endorsed Richard Cannings as an environmental leader to vote for.

“Dogwood is very particular about not doing endorsements. We are non-partisan. What we are doing is information sharing,” said Merle Kindred, a local organizer for the Dogwood Initiative, a B.C.-only group focused on protecting both the environment and democratic rights.

Instead of endorsing candidates, the Dogwood Initiative has attempted to bring together information to help people make up their minds.

According to a series of polls commissioned by Dogwood, there are still a lot of people in South Okanagan – West Kootenay riding undecided about who to cast their vote for. Their latest poll was conducted between Oct. 5 to 10 and was posted Thursday on votebc.ca.

At 29 per cent, the undecided contingent is ahead of all the parties, even the front-running NDP candidate Richard Cannings, who has 27 per cent support. Conservative Marshall Neufeld comes in at 23 per cent and Liberal Connie Denesiuk at 17 per cent while the Green Party’s Samantha Troy, a late entry to the race, brings up the rear at 6 per cent.

Dogwood also attempted to survey all the B.C. candidates about their stance on the environment and on democratic rights.

“Richard Cannings responded, Connie Denesiuk responded here. Marshall Neufeld and all the conservatives in B.C. declined to answer the survey. Samantha Troy came in late to the campaign, so she wasn’t surveyed,” said Kindred, noting that the survey results are also available through votebc.ca.

“All that folks have to do is put in their postal code and up will come their candidates,” said Kindred, who said her group is now occupied in a get out the vote phone campaign.

She said she was impressed by the voter turnout at the advance polls and the election office, where she observed lineups of early voters a couple of times. She said only a small handful of the hundreds of people she talked throughout the riding over the past few weeks said they weren’t planning to vote.

“Most people were definitely going to get out and vote. I thought that was extremely heartening,” said Kindred. “I was very impressed with the work Elections Canada is doing in the city to get out the vote, to make themselves as available as possible.

While Dogwood isn’t promoting a particular candidate, Kindred admits vote splitting and strategic voting is a big issue this election, especially in SOWK, where indications are it is going to be a close race. She said she rarely had to explain what strategic voting was to people.

“Being non-partisan, Dogwood is not advocating for or against strategic voting, but in our phone calls we are telling people that if they are considering strategic voting, the polling data might be of use,” said Kindred. “Again just making information available.”

While they are endorsing candidates, GreenPac is also non-partisan, preferring to encourage people to support environmental leaders, no matter what party they belong to. They have 18 candidates on their list at greenpac.ca, including Richard Cannings.

“We are really focused on support for those candidates. If you are an environmental leader and running for office, chances are you are being outspent and out connected by your opponent,” said Aaron Freeman, the founder and president of GreenPac. He’s hoping to translate the broad support for environmental issues across the country into something that is politically relevant.

“What we see over time is the environment punching below its weight in politics. Something needs to change that,” said Freeman.

The fact that SOWK is a battleground riding, he said, doesn’t really play into the endorsement, which is based more on actual work done in supporting environmental issues.

“We want to elect leaders that can get the job done,” said Freeman. But the other criteria used, he added, is winnability.

“You have to have a reasonable shot at winning,” he said. “For some people who want to support people who are in a really tight race, we would certainly point that person to Richard Cannings, who is in that kind of race.”