Thursday, September 04, 2008

Federal election rumblings have locals planning

With Prime Minister Stephen Harper seemingly inclined to send us to the polls in mid October, local political types are dusting off their agendas and getting ready to take their messages to the population.

Last Friday’s Daily News profiled two of our local candidates in the election to come, a review of incumbent Nathan Cullen’s resume and an examination of the Green Party candidates’ intentions, as NWCC Political Science professor Hondo Arendt, prepares to try and topple the NDP MP for Skeena-Bulkley Valley.

Yet to be heard from so far are the standard bearers for both the Conservative and Liberal parties, who will no doubt be looking forward to some high profile assistance from the head office once the campaign starting gun is fired, possibly by September 5.

The politics get dancing - potential election just around the corner
By George T. Baker
The Daily News
Friday, August 29, 2008
Page three

Ready or not, Canadians are gearing up for a possible September federal election.

Two Skeena-Bulkley Valley candidates feel like it’s about time and are chomping at the bit to get going.

“Since being elected in 2004 we’ve been in minority governments meaning we’re in a constant state of readiness,” said NDP Skeena-Bulkley Valley MP Nathan Cullen. “For us it’s just about firing-up the engine and getting people excited again.”

Cullen was first elected in 2004 and repeated his electoral victory in 2006, both under minority governments.

One of Cullen’s opponents in the riding will be the Green Party’s Hondo Arendt, a political science professor at Northwest Community college. Arendt said because of the federal minority government status, all political parties have needed to be close to a “go mode.”

“We have been getting ready for the last couple of years,’ said Arendt. “All summer long I have been saying nothing would be better then a summer election.”

Arendt said because he is a college professor it would challenge him to focus on both his political and professional responsibilities. But that won’t mean he’ll be a passenger on the campaign trail.

Although a late summer/early fall campaign might not be the most convenient time of year for Arendt, he did say it was better than December when he would be marking papers and holding final exams.

“Personally this could not be worse timing. I will just have to do my best and try to do what I can,” he said.

Speculation from Ottawa is that an election could be called as early as next week. One of the sure signs tipping off a possible election is that Governor General Michaelle Jean has been told to skip the opening of the Summer Paralympics in Beijing. Prime Minister Stephen Harper would need hr assent, which is considered a formality, to call an election.

Of course both Cullen and Arendt will be working hard to make sure Rupertites know where they stand on local issues.

The biggest issue for both: the economy. In a city where the percentage of unemployment is double the rate of the provincial average, it could be seen as a key electoral platform.

Cullen said he wanted to really focus his campaign on the northwest region’s economic stability and progress going forward.

“Economy is an emotional experience,” he said. “People feel either confident or concerned about their employment. Feeling confident is contagious and so is feeling depressed. The confidence needs to be there so that people feel better about the economy – that attracts more energy in and more people in and that’s where I believe we are heading.

“A big campaign for us is something called the “Prosperity-gap” which we coined to say that the rich have been getting richer and the working poor have been falling behind. That resonates in Skeena – that is a truth – we know it, we live it. The coast of living is gong through the roof and salaries have not been keeping pace.

“That goes against the value of the people of the Northwest, who show up, work hard an put in a good days work and expect a decent pay.”

Cullen, who calls himself the regions’ cheerleader in Ottawa, said that when he first got in to office the ratio of dollars from leaving Prince Rupert to the value returning was 10 – to – 1.

“That has been changing dramatically, so getting money for the port, getting money for the Airport improvements we need that investment. Am I satisfied? Not at all.,’ he added.

Arendt said that it was important not to think of the Green party as anti-economy party. He said his party is about sustainable growth, which mattered most to him.

“There are three planks you have to consider: the economy, the environment and the social impact,” he said.

“The bit three parties (Conservatives, Liberals and NDP) only consider the economic decisions. We do too. The Green party’s policy tends to be – especially for an area like our own – very good economically.

“We want to make decisions for the long term and not the short term.”

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