Campaigning is different but proving productive, say the three candidates running in Nanaimo-North Cowichan in the provincial election.
The NDP’s Doug Routley said the campaign is going “really well,” though it’s very different from any other election he has experienced.
“Of course, COVID-19 has changed things, but this is also my first time running for re-election after having served in government, rather than opposition,” said Routley. “In past elections, I promised voters, ‘if you support us this is what we will do.’ This time, I can say ‘this is what we have done, and this is what we will continue to do.’ We have made a lot of progress in three years and the feedback I receive from voters every day in this campaign continues to be positive.”
“Campaigning is going pretty well,” added the B.C. Liberals’ Duck Paterson. “I’ve never done one this big, though. The COVID pandemic has made it very difficult to connect with folks as the campaign made an early decision to not go door knocking, so we’re having to rely on getting our messages out through social media, print media and just getting out where folks are present in small groups.”
The B.C. Green Party’s Chris Istace echoed the sentiments of the other two about campaigning.
“I’m humbled by the outpouring of support I’ve received,” he said. “I appreciate all the conversations I’ve been having with people in our community. Hearing their thoughts and concerns, but also their hopes for the future. It’s energizing and inspiring.”
The candidates are reaching voters both by conventional and unconventional means during the pandemic.
“The pandemic has changed the way we campaign in so many ways, and this affects how we interact with voters,” said Routley. “During a typical campaign I would be door knocking every day and attending community events, but now we are using virtual events, conducting meetings through Zoom and I have been on the phone every day with people. In so many ways it is different, but the main goal is very much the same and that is to reach voters with our message and to hear from them what priorities they want to see addressed.”
“I’ve never done a provincial election before so I’m not familiar with what’s supposed to be normal, but for me the social media emphasis is a bit unconventional. I’m more used to speaking with people one-on-one,” Paterson said, adding that his team has used a truck with large signs attached to try to “raise our profile at the neighbourhood level.”
As far as conventional means, he said the team has been phoning and taking out newspaper ads.
In Istace’s case, he said the Greens are doing a lot of the same things one might expect during a normal campaign but adjusted for a pandemic.
“We don’t have an office, so we’re meeting with all of our volunteers on a regular basis through Zoom. It’s nice to be able to see everyone’s faces and connect that way,” he said.
He has been doing door-knocking in the riding, using walking sticks to rap on doors.
“We are being respectful of everyone’s bubbles. We stay back 20 feet after knocking. Everyone has been welcoming and appreciative of the thoughtfulness we put into our canvassing safety protocols. The walking sticks are a hit with the volunteers, too,” Istace said.
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It’s a challenge for the candidates to best utilize their time during a quick campaign.
“This is another thing that has changed due to the pandemic, particularly around the large events and meetings,” Routley explained. “Now, instead of travelling from one event or meeting to another, I can go from one to the other in two minutes (through Zoom and phone). In this respect it is easier to manage my time, but one aspect that I am really enjoying is that I have more time for one-on-one calls with voters. All that said, nothing replaces the face-to-face understandings we achieve by meeting people face to face.”
Paterson said his focus right now is on trying to identify supporters and getting out to meet people under the COVID protocols.
“As well, I work on a farm in North Oyster, and the cows don’t care what I’m doing. They want to get fed and we also have to start putting equipment away for the winter so I’m trying to fit all of that in while also doing fundraising for the public washrooms project in downtown Ladysmith. I have a lot on my plate but that’s OK, I’m used to it,” he said.
Istace said the snap election has made for long days, but his team has come together to support him and he’s grateful for the work they’ve been doing.
“I spend my days safely meeting as many people as I can. I meet people on the streets and at the markets in our local communities. I make phone calls and go ‘distanced’ door-knocking. I’m very grateful for the warm welcome I get when I’m out and about,” he said. “Around 6 p.m. every day I do a live campaign update on Facebook. It’s an opportunity to talk about issues, to let people get to know me better and to answer questions. It is great to have so much support and encouragement, and that there’s so much interest in this election.”