From a column published in the Kamloops Daily News on Saturday, Oct. 11, 2008
What a shame that both our local elections will be decided in Ottawa.
It may seem absurd to say voting in Kamloops Thompson Cariboo will be determined by what’s happening on the other side of the country, and even sillier to suggest our civic election will be, too.
But consider the evidence.
Nominations closed yesterday for the civic election Nov. 15. Twenty-nine candidates for mayor and council in Kamloops is a goodly number, though not anywhere near a record — there have been years when three dozen people sought council seats, and a half dozen wanted the mayor’s chair.
But the credentials of those running vary. There are some very good candidates, to be sure, and even a few with modest name recognition.
Ken McClelland is known in the business community, Bill McQuarrie gets around pretty well in his role as CEO for the Interior Science Innovation Council.
Peter Sharp is a former councillor, Nancy Bepple has campaigned hard to up her name recognition. Tim Larose is known for his work with the New Life Mission, Wayne Vollrath is a respected former senior administrator at City Hall, and Denis Walsh is an activist on a variety of issues.
And then, of course, we have all the incumbents, a couple of whom have spotty records. Add to all of the above a number of candidates who will struggle to get their names to the public, or who have little or no experience with civic matters.
The mayoral race has attracted a trio of hopefuls: a well-known incumbent councillor, a little-known but combative challenger, and a man who specializies in obscenities and has been banned from City Hall.
You might be saying right now, well, that’s par for the course. But there’s something wrong here. There are so many people whose names are not on that list, people who could add significantly to the well-being of Kamloops if they had felt inclined to run. The real movers and shakers, the ones who truly make this city go, are thinly represented.
The fact is, people seem supremely disinterested in politics right now, and I blame it on Ottawa. The federal election has been such a nasty event, fought by leaders who garner little of our respect, that we are turned off.
The federal campaign has been just enough of a distraction that we aren’t thinking much about what goes on just down the street from us at City Hall. Council candidates chose either to announce their intentions but not campaign, due to the federal election, or wait until the last minute.
We will have a very short opportunity to get to know the candidates, and that’s a recipe for apathy and a low turnout.
Never can I recall another civic election that has been so influenced by what goes on in another jurisdiction.
But while the effect on our civic election is felt in general terms, Ottawa will actually determine who our next MP will be. Here’s why.
As a Daily News-CFJC-TV poll showed this week, Michael Crawford of the NDP and Cathy McLeod of the Conservatives are tied in a dead heat in this riding.
McLeod has demonstrated a lack of knowledge of party policy, and her grasp of local issues is untested.
This is not a putdown of Cathy McLeod. Only the constituency association knows why it left it to the prime minister’s office to pick a local candidate, and why a total unknown got the nod.
Fact is, this total unknown is on the brink of being our next MP. Is this not a great country when everyone has a chance to grow up to be MP?
Crawford, on the other hand, is in his second campaign, has done everything he can to become a household name, and if voters don’t know him or like him by now they never will.
He’s not everybody’s cup of tea but one view is that Crawford should, all things equal, pull ahead and win the day. People aren’t feeling the love from Prime Minister Harper right now over the economic crisis.
By far the biggest factor between now and Tuesday will be the party leaders. If Stephane Dion and Jack Layton don’t totally mess it up, they should deny Harper a majority. Will people in our riding vote strategically to assist in that, or to keep Jack Layton from a B.C. breakthrough?
Crawford and McLeod each needs the slightest tip in undecided votes to come out ahead. At this point, that boost will come not from anything they do, but from what voters are thinking about the leaders as they go into voting booths Tuesday.