With door-knocking out for the 2020 provincial election, local candidates have turned to phones and social media to connect with potential voters. (File Photo)

Potential Cariboo North MLAs talk COVID-19 campaigning

Candidates reveal their plans for what their campaigns will look like during a global pandemic

If you get an unexpected knock on your door this election season, it probably won’t be from a local political campaign.

Candidates in Cariboo North are figuring out how to engage with the public during a global pandemic.

The Quesnel and District Chamber of Commerce will be hosting its usual all-candidates forum, but voters will only be able to see it on Facebook, not in person.

Cariboo North B.C. Liberal candidate Coralee Oakes said she was frustrated an election was called now, instead of next spring or fall.

Oakes said her campaign would not be opening an office that is open to the public or knocking on doors so they can stay safe during what she called the second wave of COVID-19. For now, all outreach will be done at a distance, either through phoning or online.

“It was an incredibly difficult decision because I feel not having that office puts us at an incredible disadvantage,” Oakes said. “I just feel so many of our volunteers may have immune-compromised systems, and I would never be willing to put at risk anyone’s health.”

For NDP candidate Scott Elliott, he’s at least been able to follow through on his own personal tradition. Each election the city councillor has run in has included trips to Moffat Bridge to hold a sign and interact with drivers.

“I thought it was a good way to engage with people and let them know how passionate I am about the position, but this time around, it’s just perfect,” he said. “I’m not able to knock on doors, which I typically do. I knocked on hundreds and hundreds of doors last election.”

Elliott added he’s talking to as many people as possible, but now on the phone instead of in-person.

READ MORE: B.C. VOTES 2020: Looking back at 2017 Cariboo North numbers

Green Party candidate Doug Gook said he’ll be only interacting in-person with potential voters outdoors.

“This is my garlic planting season, so I’m thinking of opening up stretches of time in each day where people can visit me in my garlic patch,” he said. “I’ll be popping cloves in the heavily-composted ground, and talking politics is a wonderful way to pass the time.”

Gook said he’ll be in contact with voters only through physically-distanced means, adding the nomination process was a good template to follow. Candidates were able to take oral declarations of support to reach the 75 threshold for nominations.

“We’re going to be doing a lot of creative politicking through social media and through direct contact with that classic, revolutionary thing called the telephone,” he said. “The telephone was the key connection.”

Oakes said she wasn’t going to be door-knocking, noting the geography and communities inside Cariboo North makes campaigning risky.

“Cariboo North, the riding, is larger than Vancouver Island,” she said. “[Traditional campaigning] just puts people at a risk at a time when we’re heading into the second wave. It’s a huge responsibility for all of our campaign teams. On our team, we are putting safety first.”

That safety-first mindset is extending to election day procedures for campaigns as well. Campaigns are not planning any election night events, not only to keep a small close contacts list, but also because a large number of mail-in ballots are expected.

Elections BC estimates 35 per cent of voters will do so by mail in 2020.

For campaigns used to getting out the vote and following up on election day to confirm their supports got to the polls, they’ve needed to shift their thinking.

“The amount of mail-in ballots is unprecedented,” Elliott said. “I think that’s been a real positive for people. They want to feel safe, and [mail-in ballots] are as safe as you’re going to get.”

The provincial election will take place on Saturday, Oct. 24. The deadline to request a mail-in ballot is Sept.17, and those ballots are not counted until a week after the election. Advance voting will be available from Thursday, Oct. 15 to Wednesday, Oct. 21.

Kyle Townsend, who is running for the B.C. Conservative party, did not respond to a interview request before our press deadline.

***

The all-candidates will take place Wednesday, Oct. 14 from 6:30-8:30 p.m.

It will not be open to the public but will be streamed live via Facebook. Members of the public can submit questions for candidates through Slido from Oct. 7 to Oct. 14 at 6 p.m. by visiting the website www.sli.do and entering the event code 12836. As well, if anyone is not comfortable using Slido, they can call the Quesnel and District Chamber of Commerce at 250-992-7262 to share their questions.

READ MORE: NDP promise ICBC rebate as BC Liberals pledge to hold referendum on Surrey policing



editor@quesnelobserver.com

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