Time is on the side of Kelowna-Lake Country NDP candidate and he's using it well - InfoNews

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Time is on the side of Kelowna-Lake Country NDP candidate and he's using it well

Justin Kulik is the candidate for Kelowna Lake Country.
October 01, 2019 - 5:00 PM

KELOWNA - Justin Kulik was in his element last Friday when he stood among the hundreds of people who descended on City Hall to demand political action on climate change.

“I love it,” Kulik, the NDP candidate for Kelowna Lake Country, said, having to raise his voice to be heard above a thunderous chant of “1.5 to stay alive.”

“It’s great to see people come together like this.”

Kulik has always had a passion for activism, demonstrated most notably in 2018 when he was a student at Okanagan Mission Secondary.

Setting the goal to get rid of food waste in Canada, he gathered 150,000 signatures on a Change.org petition and took his concerns to Ottawa.

Kulik presented the petition to the Minister of Agriculture Lawrence MacAulay on World Food Day Oct. 16, 2018. There he discussed food waste with the prime minister’s policy advisor for health.

Fast forward less than a year and his sights were set on Ottawa again. 

At 18-years-old, he is the youngest candidate in the race for the Kelowna Lake Country riding. If elected, he’d make history as the youngest-ever elected member of the House of Commons of Canada — a record previously set by Pierre-Luc Dusseault, who was elected at the age of 19 in 2011.

As a personal aside, if he is elected he'd also get a pretty special way to celebrate the first time he was eligible to cast a ballot.

That's an idea that makes him grin from ear to ear.

Being young is usually viewed as a weakness in an election, but Kulik said being an underdog makes victory, "1,000 times sweeter."

Plus this time around may be different.

This whole election cycle is younger. More millennials are now eligible to vote in Canada than baby boomers, according to Abacus Data, an Ottawa-based research and strategy firm that specializes in data on voting trends and millennials.

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau is the oldest of the three major party leaders at the ripe old age of 46, and youth engagement in politics is on the rise.

And, Kulik pointed out, young people have shown they can sway the vote.

In the 2015 Canadian federal election, youth voter turnout skyrocketed by 20 percentage points and because the Liberals captured the largest share of these new voters.

That said, Kulik isn't a "youth candidate" per se.

He's young by years but has stood out in several election forums by speaking articulately and forcefully on everything from immigration, foreign worker programs to the economy.

He knows his political material and believes the NDP to be the soundest choice for both environmental and social issues facing people in his riding.

While he's yet to be impolite, he doesn't mince words while on the campaign trail.

"Last week, at the climate strike, we (NDP, Green, Marijuana party candidates and Liberal campaigners) were all there together," he said.

A couple of them got together and called Conservative candidate Tracy Gray and asked why she wasn't there, he said.

"The response we got was 'we didn’t know where she was,' he said. "There was nothing from the blues at all."

MP Stephen Fuhr also got in his crosshairs when he tried to say that voters should make a business decision at the ballot box.

That kind of thinking is the opposite of what people want.  

He thinks more people share his views than may be currently understood.

"We’re being underestimated here — this is not a two-way race like people think," Kulik said, referring to the Conservative/Liberal race that's defined the politics in the Central Okanagan for decades.

"People are frustrated with both the Conservatives and the Liberals and want something new."

While door knocking at what he estimates to have been thousands of houses, he said he's met with a lot of people who are feeling political ennui and, for a change, it's not going to stop them from voting.

They're, instead, planning to vote so they can feel engaged and that is swaying them toward the NDP platform, by his estimates. 

It's something that longtime NDPer and current president of the Kelowna-Lake Country federal NDP Maria Tokarchuk sees as well.

"Governments have put more priority on helping big corporations and not on helping the people who need it most," she said.

And, from her view, there's no one better to speak to that than Kulik.

"This is where it's going," said Tokarchuk.

"Young people are the ones who are going to suffer the consequences of all the bad policies from well-intentioned, well-meaning politicians who have said all the right things but have not done a lot to move us forward, especially in terms of climate and the social programs we say we are so proud of as Canadians."


To contact a reporter for this story, email Kathy Michaels or call 250-718-0428 or email the editor. You can also submit photos, videos or news tips to the newsroom and be entered to win a monthly prize draw.

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