KELOWNA - Official campaigning for the federal election is still months away, but in the Kelowna-Lake Country riding, the parties with the best chance of upsetting the federal Conservatives, are knocking on doors like the writ has already been dropped.
“I don’t know about the other parties but I’m certainly campaigning,” the NDP candidate Norah Bowman says. “I was going door to door just last night.”
Bolstered by the recent startling success of the provincial New Democrats in Alberta, and early polls that show the federal NDP gaining ground, Bowman projects a confidence in her chances unusual for the solidly Conservative riding she is running in.
“I’m campaigning to form government with Thomas Mulcair,” says Bowman, a professor at Okanagan College who just recently went through her party's candidate school.
“Canadians are ready for a change and Canadians are concerned about the environment and local jobs and the future of our country.”
Bowman says the buzz about the Orange Wave in Alberta, while helpful when knocking on doors, does not change the NDP message and won’t change how she campaigns.
“It is exciting to see what happened with Rachel Notley in Alberta, but there is no complicated strategy. We’re doing exactly the same thing as before,” she says. “What I’m hearing is our values are aligned with the values of Canadians. People are ready for a change and we are the party that is ready to form government.
Confidence aside, Bowman does acknowedge the formidable numbers incumbent Conservative MP Ron Cannan racked up in the 2011 election, pulling about 56 per cent of the vote.
“I thing we had a solid second place with 21 or 22 per cent of the vote. That part is simple, we need to get more people to vote NDP than did last time. And it’s obvious that Harper is vulnerable”
Her Liberal counterpart in Kelowna-Lake Country Stephen Fuhr thinks the chances of a big swing vote away from the Conservatives is the highest he’s seen in years. If that swing vote is actually ripe for the picking, his strategy is to capture them before they take a look at the NDP.
“I think the are enough small-C, light blue conservatives in the riding who feel the way I do about how poorly Stephen Harper has managed our government on all fronts,” Fuhr says.
“But as they wake up and start to look at alternatives are they going to swing all the way to the left to a party which has never formed government. I don’t think so," he says.
Fuhr is a commercial pilot retired from the Canadian military who is campaigning on the party’s revamped strength under Liberal leader Justin Trudeau and its past record as good fiscal managers.
“Fiscally, the Liberals are the only other choice, they have demonstrated they can balance the books. The other choice is a party which has never formed a federal government."
He’s been knocking on doors for a couple months already and while it’s still early days, says the people he’s meeting on the doorsteps throughout the riding are willing to listen to a message they might not have listened to during the last election.
“Justin is a real guy, he’s an evidenced-based thinker, he’s a team builder and decision-maker and he listens,” says Fuhr, who counts his recent appointment to the Liberal’s foreign affairs advisory committee as a huge bonus for the riding.
“I sat across from Justin at the last meeting. I’m getting face time with the likes of Marc Garneau and Ralph Goodale, Joyce Murray and Andy Leslie. That’s huge.”
Despite a resurgent federal NDP, Fuhr knows his challenge lies in taking down the incumbent Cannan, but says the feedback he’s getting indicates anything is possible.
“The political landscape is ripe for a change and right now the biggest demographic I’m seeing is undecided which is very encouraging," he says.
The next landmark for Fuhr will be hosting a ticketed event with veteran politician and former Liberal finance minster Ralph Goodale in Kelowna on June 27.
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