Personalities all over the map in local riding

It’s no surprise there were a few curt exchanges and a bit of tension at the all-candidates debate held in Princeton Friday night.

It has been 26 years since the riding elected an NDP candidate – and at that time it was called Okanagan Boundary – however in the past two elections the New Democrats came within 1,400 votes of success.

Until the lines were redrawn last year Princeton was part of the Fraser-Nicola riding, which lays claim to a more pumpkin-hued past. Fraser-Nicola was NDP from 1991 to 2001, and from 2005 to 2013, before it was won by Liberal MLA Jackie Tegart.

Despite voters in the Boundary Similkameen selecting either a Liberal or Social Credit candidate in 14 of the last 15 votes, the contest to be decided here on May 9 could fairly be described as anybody’s ball game.

Provincially the CBC is reporting had the election been held last week the Liberal’s chance of winning was 72.5 per cent, based on 10,000 computer simulations.

However additional data from that news organization, generated by a complicated poll-tracking model, suggests it’s not really a done deal. An average of various polls projects 41.1 per cent for the Liberals, and 40.4 per cent for the NDP, while an average seat projection tips in the opposite direction, with 43 assigned to the NDP and 42 assigned to the Liberals.

Well, you can’t really go by the polls. (Source: Hillary Clinton.)

Friday night Princeton voters were introduced to four very different personalities vying for the honor of representing them in Victoria.

The clashes were most apparent between MLA Linda Larson and NDP candidate Colleen Ross.

Larson is a low-key speaker. She often consults notes and takes her time. None of that is bad.

Ross is more aggressive. She is outspoken and her presentational style has an edge. There is nothing wrong with those qualities either.

At one point, while answering a question about BC parks, Larson admitted to the crowd: “Look, I’m not a camper.” While extolling the virtues of camping and life in the great outdoors, she said personally she does not enjoy sleeping on the ground.

Ross immediately shot back: “Well, I’M a camper.” And she treated the audience to a story about camping out of her kayak for two weeks last summer.

On another occasion, while following up one of Larson’s answers, Ross proclaimed: “Oh I just love it when Linda gives me a gift.”

Green party candidate Vonnie Lavers acquitted herself well, and appeared reasonably informed on a variety of topics. It takes courage and commitment to represent a party that everyone knows hasn’t a snowball’s chance in climate change of winning. (The CBC puts the Green Party’s chance of victory at 0 per cent.) That said the Green Party is crucial to good governance in BC. It keeps important issues in front of the mainstream, and that contribution leads to better policy.

Independent candidates in any election are interesting, and Dr. Peter Entwistle is no exception. An Oliver physician, he is the region’s only addictions’ doctor, and is running on a platform of overhauling and rightsizing the health system.

Entwistle was able to relate almost every question – be it about employment or income or trails – to health. He spoke with quiet passion, and provided startling insight. For example, he shared that some medical services are waitlisted or hard to source as doctors can prioritize which treatments they provide based on how they are paid for each procedure. He recommends, among other common-sense ideas, salary-based compensation for the profession.

It is unlikely any independent could win the riding, but the next MLA would be foolhardy to not seek out Entwistle for his advice, knowledge and candor.

On election day it may be the votes siphoned by Lavers and Entwistle that determine whether the riding goes red or orange.

Interesting times.

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