Thursday, September 25, 2008

Sharing the same hymn book in Skeena-Bulkley Valley!

Conservatives and Liberals don’t agree on much at the best of times in Skeena-Bulkley Valley, but on the topic of strategic voting, it would seem that both Sharon Smith and Corrina Morhart are on the same page, of the same book.

In Thursday’s Daily News Liberal candidate Morhart outlined more of her platform and her thoughts on the political dynamic that is Bulkley Valley-Skeena. In the midst of the policy discussions and platform promises, came the suggestion that voters in the riding take a serious look at making sure that their vote translates into a seat on the government side of the house come October 14th.

It’s not a particularly new suggestion, since trying to marginalize incumbent Nathan Cullen has of late become the key discussion point in the campaign so far.
Mrs. Smith of the Conservatives has been suggesting that if residents of the riding truly want representation, then casting an X with the NDP, in her viewpoint would be a serious case of a wasted vote.

Now it seems the Liberals share that belief, calling on the voters to abandon Mr. Cullen for the prospect of power in Ottawa. An interesting idea, but judging by the polls in BC, one that probably wont be a particularly helpful strategy for the Liberals.

As Gary Mason pointed out in the Globe and Mail yesterday, across this province the Liberal vote is in free fall, partly a result of a backlash against Premier Gordon Campbell a distant relative to what the Federal Liberals may believe in, but apparently enough of a tarnish to be applied liberally if you will to the Federal parties chances in the province.

The other drawback has been a less than warm embrace of the Liberal leader Stephane Dion, who has spent far too much time flogging his Green Shift to a province that already was pre-disposed to be distrustful of any initiative that involves more taxes, even if to save the world.
Things are so bad for the Big L machine in BC, that Mason quoted polling data that places the Liberals sliding to fourth place in the province, with the Conservatives gaining 37 percent of the vote so far, the NDP on the rise with 26, the Greens appealing to 19 per cent and then the Liberals grabbing but 15 per cent. A move that puts many of their incumbents in real trouble, let alone those brave souls seeking out new territory for the party.
The numbers that are pouring into the various national campaign offices have shifted the Conservative agenda away from worrying about the Liberals in BC and instead focusing their attention on the NDP in some key ridings in the province.

So with polling and leadership troubles haunting the Liberal campaign in BC, to try and push your party as preparing to take over the government seems to be a heavy bit of wishful thinking and perhaps a less than well thought out campaign strategy.
Particularly troublesome if the electorate decides that hey, you might be on to something, but that your party hasn’t a hope in forming that particular government of the day and that any strategic voting may just go to that other candidate with the strategic wish.

Skeena before, and the Skeena-Bulkley Valley combination in recent years has for the most part been a rather contrary animal, frequently rewarding the candidate who represents the opposition agitators in Parliament, rather than the blissful backbenchers.

From the days of Jim Fulton, through to Reformer Mike Scott and again with the NDP with Nathan Cullen, the riding has seemingly gone contrary to the conventional wisdom of joining in with the government of the day for the most part of its history.

Rather than try to browbeat the locals into voting strategically (and a questionable plan at that in the case of the Liberals), the more successful tactic might be to outline how one would best represent the riding’s interest, regardless as to status as a part of a mythical government or from the cheap seats of opposition..

Effective representation, an ability to listen to local residents and understand the key needs in the riding, and a campaign which highlights the local issues, and offers to take them on as your own might find success.
And most importantly a campaign that treats the electorate as being capable of reaching a consensus based on the quality of the candidate and not some distant promise of lucre by way of governmental fiat, now that would probably prove to be a worthy strategy.

And if the polls are any indication, it probably would work a heck of a lot better than the tying your campaign to a floundering national presence on the West coast.

The Daily’s review of the latest Liberal talking points appeared in Thursday’s paper.
Morhart puts her heart into the race to Ottawa
Liberal candidate eager to represent the riding
By George T. Baker
The Daily News
Wednesday, September 24, 2008
Page three

The white eggshell paint was still drying last Wednesday in her McBride Street campaign office but Corrina Morhart considered the fresh coat a good sign.

Heck it wasn't too long ago she wasn't sure she was going to get involved in this year's federal election.

The last candidate announced, she had trouble getting time off work as a social worker so that she could campaign. It had to be difficult because of the nature of what she does for a living. As a social worker dealing with troubled families, she is relied upon by Northern Health to show up and work.

"Our main priority is to protect the children, whether its sexual abuse, emotional abuse and neglect then that's when social workers are mandated by the province to step in," said Morhart, who felt comfortable that she wasn't hurting anyone by taking what she believes to be an opportunity to get politically involved.

Morhart might even use the campaign to highlight some of the North Coast's health troubles. While she may not win any political debate with thickly worded rhetoric, she believes her skills as a backroom networker and in social work gives her an opportunity to shine for Skeena-Bulkley Valley.

She wants a dialysis machine in Prince Rupert so that those with liver problems in the city do not have to go all the way to Houston to receive necessary attention.

When it comes to health care, she feels that Northern health has a long way to go - that the decision to divide the provincial health care system into separate health systems has hurt the North through neglect from Victoria.

Luckily for her, Morhart was given a one-month leave and is in the thick of competition to represent the Skeena-Bulkley Valley riding.

As a female Liberal candidate in this riding, it does seem she has a bit of a wall to climb.
Consider that females only make up 21 per cent of the parliament seating arrangement and it may begin to feel a bit male-orientated. Given that Iona Campognolo, is the one female candidate in the past to represent this riding - when it was all-encompassing Skeena - it has been a challenge for a female candidate to climb the wall and make it over to Ottawa.

In this year's battle, there are two female candidates and three male candidates.

Morhart, and Conservative candidate Sharon Smith, will bring a woman's voice to the discussion and debates about this riding's future.

However, Morhart, for her part, isn't planning on making this election about her gender. She wants to focus on separate issues like Health Care and reconciliation with North Coast First Nations - big enough issues in their own right.

"What I have discovered through my education was the impact of residential schools and it is not just the one generation of survivors but it's a multi-generation thing. And alcohol and drugs have been a way for many of the survivors to cope with their childhood experiences and they were robbed of their childhood. This is still something that needs to be addressed," said Morhart.

The current running through this city, she said, is the tension between nations but it is something she wants to help ease, to let go of the elastic band. In a city that is 32 per cent First Nations, and built on traditional Tsimshian land, it is inevitable that tackling First Nations reconciliation could help her come voting day.

Morhart, who is of half-Tsimshian and half-Austrian heritage, said that one thing she would like to do is build learning environments between all the nations of Skeena-Bulkely Valley.

"It's not just an instant thing, it's not written in a book. Someone once said to me "just give me a book and I will read about the Tsimshian people," but that's not how it is. We've got the heart, as someone else said when you got the beating of the drum the heart is there."

Morhart isn't suggesting that six hundred years of tension will ease because of her arrival in politics, but she does believe that she offers a different point of view than her competitors. And that is something she hopes voters look at when they come to vote on Oct. 14.

Morhart also wants voters to think strategically, something that Smith has called for, and something that the NDP's Nathan Cullen, the Green's Hondo Arendt and the CHP's Rod Taylor are against.

"I don't think the communication between government and this riding has been good. I'm not underestimating Nathan Cullen's potential but I feel that if you are not in government you do not seem to be able to get the message across about your riding and the needs and concerns that are here," said Morhart.

Morhart hopes that 2008 is the year her party gets a shot at spreading the message about the North Coast.

Will that be enough? Voters will have to wait until the paint dries on this election to find out.

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