UPDATE: Late Monday afternoon, the NDP announced that Josie Osborne has been named the Mid Island-Pacific Rim candidate for the BC NDP party.
The NDP and Liberals have solidified their candidates for the two Comox Valley ridings.
In the Courtenay-Comox constituency, NDP candidate Ronna-Rae Leonard, who is seeking a second term as MLA, and Liberal candidate Brennan Day are confirmed.
Those two parties have also named their candidates in the Mid Island-Pacific Rim constituency, which covers Cumberland and all Comox Valley points south of Courtenay.
Port Alberni city councillor Helen Poon will be attempting to win the seat from the NDP, who will counter with Josie Osborne, mayor of Tofino. (Scott Fraser, who has held the seat for the NDP since 2005, announced a couple of weeks ago that he would not seek re-election.)
From the Courtenay-Comox perspective, Leonard was quick to address the biggest concern she has already heard from constituents.
“The first thing I am hearing is that we shouldn’t be having an election in a pandemic, but the fact is, we are going to be in a pandemic no matter what – whether the election is today, or a year from now,” she said. “We have had some great experience in learning how to be safe, and finding new ways of doing things, so I trust that we will be able to do this, and that people will feel confident.”
Day is disappointed that NDP leader John Horgan called an election and “chose to put politics above people’s safety.”
“I know that’s the critical concern everybody has right now. Makes it tough on everybody for running a campaign.”
Realistically, Day said the snap election will be a vote that determines how people think Horgan has done his job handling the pandemic.
“Unfortunately, there’s not going to be a lot of room to talk about the real issues.”
Nevertheless, the Comox Valley entrepreneur is ready to hit the campaign trail, saying his party has been doing its work well in advance. The Liberals have a campaign food trailer that was to be adorned with decals Tuesday.
“We’re going with a very community-first approach on this election,” Day said. “It’s near and dear to my heart that we get the word out and make sure we’re addressing the issues of the community.”
Leonard is confident that the voters will recognize the accomplishments of the government since the 2017 election, and will vote accordingly.
“The fact that we have a year left in a fixed term is a tribute to what we have been able to accomplish in the last three-and-a-half years,” she said. “We are at a point in this pandemic and the work that has been done collaboratively for the most part, through the early days of the pandemic, but we are in a place now where we are starting to see diverging opinions… where you are playing politics more than doing what’s best for the people of British Columbia. This is an opportunity for British Columbians to have their say on how to go forward, as [Horgan] says, not just for the next 12 months, but for the next four years. This is a long game in our recovery, and it won’t happen overnight. We will see 32 days of debate about it, and then we get to move forward with stability. I long for that stability.”
The B.C. Liberals plan to employ a hands-off, no door-knocking approach.
“We’re not going to put our volunteers or the community at risk for a needless election,” Day said. “We’re going to be out and about, and inviting people to come to us, rather than going to them, so they can do it on their own terms.”
Leonard did not divulge any details as to what her campaigning will involve – only to say that she will be following mandated guidelines.
“The bottom line is that whatever happens in the campaign will be adjusted to make sure we are complying with the health and safety standards that have been set out by the provincial health officers,” said Leonard. “So yes, I think campaigns are going to look very different.”
The Courtenay-Comox riding was among the most competitive in the 2017 provincial election, with Leonard elected by a margin of just 189 votes.
A mail-in ballot will result in a delay on election night, but Day hopes it doesn’t affect voter turnout.
“I’m a big believer that the best governments are formed when you have a big voter turnout. The pandemic has a possibility of putting a damper on that, and rightly so. But we’re going to do our job here and make sure we get the messaging out, and advocate strongly for the Comox Valley.”
Poon echoed Day’s comments regarding the necessity of this election.
“It’s a very unnecessary election,” she said. “During this time we should be focusing on governing, and we should not be focused on elections. We had all the right ingredients to have another 13 months of stable government, and now that’s not going to be the case.”
She said she expects the campaign to have a different look and feel to it.
“There will certainly be more online meetings and less of the door-knocking,” she said. “But if door-knocking is used – which I think is one of the best ways to connect with voters – I will have to work within the safety guidelines.”
Poon said she looks forward to the challenge.
“I suppose it’s anyone’s race right now… I’m excited and I’m ready.”
Osborne, who was confirmed as the NDP candidate late Monday afternoon, had announced six days ago she was seeking the NDP nomination.
“I want to help build a long-term recovery that is sustainable and will make life better for the people in the Central Vancouver Island and all British Columbians,” she said at the time of her nomination. “Following the incredible work of Scott Fraser, it’s crucial this work to rebuild our province is done in partnership with First Nation communities.”
The Record has reached out to the BC Green Party, inquiring about plans for candidates in the two Comox Valley constituencies.