The fourth federal election in seven years was called on the weekend after Parliament voted last week that it had lost confidence in the Conservative government.
And so with Prime Minister Stephen Harper aiming for a Conservative majority and the opposition parties hoping for a change at the top, the future of the country’s governmental stewardship will likely be decided in swing ridings such as the B.C. Southern Interior.
Held by NDP critic for agriculture, agri-food and rural affairs Alex Atamanenko since 2006, the seat was won by Conservative Jim Gouk in 2004 when he beat Atamanenko by 680 votes.
Atamanenko said from his Facebook account Tuesday the current election is about trust and accountability.
“Harper needs to be held accountable for the scandals and deceit,” Atamanenko said. “The Conservatives tell us they did not want an election (but) they have been spending millions on disgusting attack ads on the Liberal leader in addition to pre-election announcements. We need to get them out of there.”
And speaking to the Similkameen Spotlight, Atamanenko said he would have liked to see more in last week’s toppled Conservative budget to support food growers in the region.
“Nothing in this budget will take the country even one step closer to having the comprehensive national food strategy that most farm organizations and civil society groups are calling for,” he said.
But Conservative candidate Stephen Hill said the budget would have been good for the riding.
“This budget has received widespread support from virtually every sector of our society”, said Hill. “Talking from both sides of their mouths, opposition parties criticize our spending to weather the recession while at the same time, urged us to spend even more.
“I trust Canadians will agree with all the groups that support the budget and send the opposition a message on election day that they should not have forced an election over a very supportable budget.”
Green Party candidate Bryan Hunt said that while he supports his party’s policies on the environment, the primary issue for him is job creation.
“The B.C. Southern Interior has the highest unemployment rate in B.C. so this is an issue across our riding,” Hunt said. “But we can do that in ways that helps our environment because I think we should balance both.”
For instance, Hunt said the government should require companies to offer or convert a percentage of their jobs to telecommute positions allowing employees to work from home.
“If those jobs are mandated then they now open up to not only just people in the big centres, but also to everyone in a riding like ours,” said Hunt. “Plus it will help the environment because it will save all the commuting the people are doing in the bigger centres.”
Liberal candidate Shan Lavell said the main issue for her is creating the conditions for growth for families and businesses, with a focus on agriculture, mining and natural resources like water.
“I think our waterways are important,” she said. “We need water. It is important for agriculture; it is important for people and it is important for the natural environment.”
Lavell said she would also like to encourage constituents to re-engage their relationship with the democratic process, particularly those in aboriginal communities.
“I think that they have a lot to offer in terms of their understanding of close family connections as well as their relationship to the earth and to water,” she said. “They have had less of a carbon footprint then we have had in the last millennia.”