BC Premier Christy Clark came through the Kootenays on the last day of April, hard on the stump in Invermere, Kimberley and Cranbrook, finishing off the day’s campaigning with a rally at Auntie Barb’s Bakery in Cranbrook.
Clark pitched the qualifications of the regional candidates: Tanya Wall, Nelson-Creston; Tom Shypitka, Kootenay East; and Doug Clovechuk, Columbia River-Revelstoke. All three are seeking their first election victories — in the two latter ridings, the incumbents are retiring: Liberal Bill Bennett and New Democrat Norm Macdonald.
Time is ticking down on the provincial election campaign. With one week to go, it seems lots of ridings are in play — poll aggregates in fact show the BC NDP with an edge over the BC Liberals (based on CBC’s poll tracker, last updated). Locally, the election races are fraught. In Columbia River Revelstoke, five candidates are in the running. In Kootenay East, there are four.
Four years ago, going into the 2013 provincial election, the BC NDP were also ahead in the polls, but the Liberals pulled it off on election night. On Sunday, Premier Clark spoke to the Townsman to talk about what’s different this time around.
“This time we are way better prepared, and we have four outstanding candidates here,” she said, after the rally. She added that in her view, province-wide and in the Kootenays, the number one concern of voters is job protection and job creation.
“Most importantly, people are most concerned about their jobs — and we’re living in a very uncertain time,” Clark said. She took the opportunity to talk about her party’s strenght in this regard, compared to the opposition’s.
“Used to be, that up here lots of people, their dad had voted NDP, their mom had voted NDP, so they were going to vote NDP. I don’t think people believe the NDP care about jobs anymore.
“And so I think that jobs message speaks to a lot of people up in the Kootenays. Because they don’t want fewer jobs, they want more jobs. And the BC Liberals are the only party with a plan to create jobs.”
The world has changed since 2013, and looming over this election, as anyway, is the shadow of U.S. President Donald Trump, and a resurgent era of protectionism south of the border. This has lately manifested itself in the Americans slapping a new tariff on softwood lumber. Clark has responded with measures to restrict the shipment of American thermal coal through B.C.
“That’s why I think the question in this election is which leader is best able to lead the fight to protect and create jobs,” Clark said of the new trend in the U.S. “It’s not easier this time than it was in my first term in government. It’s going to be harder. And we’re going to have to fight hard to hold our own with the Americans and President Trump.
“So we’re banning American thermal coal going through British Columbia. We’re taking that first step and we’ve got their attention. We are going to fight hard and get a deal for B.C. workers, on softwood. And then we’ve got a big NAFTA fight.”
Clark said Kootenay voters are responsive to the B.C. Liberal message.
“Who do people think is going to fight for them? I think I’ve got a good record fighting for jobs, and I think people in the Kootenays are going to support our candidates, who have the same record behind them.”
B.C. goes to the polls, Tuesday, May 9. Advance voting is already underway.