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Monday, April 27, 2009

Candidates struggle to connect with voters

On Tuesday May 12 BC voters go to the polls at a time when we are facing the worst economic calamity in 70 years and politicians are struggling to find voters who care. What is up with British Columbia’s political state of ennui?

In the old days politicians would try and connect with voters by holding big rallies and attending all candidate forums. Now they post candidate pages on facebook, send innocuous messages on twitter, wave signs at you as your drive on the highway and knock on your door and hope that you are home and interested enough to spend a minute or two chatting with them.

The question that worries all of them is will you actually go out to vote on May 12th? Recently I had the opportunity to attend a dinner where Small Business Minister Ida Chong was the guest speaker. Even in her relatively safe riding of Oak Bay Gordon Head she is worried that not enough of her supporters will come out to vote on May 12th.

I had a chance to speak at length with Ida and she told me, “This is not an election we can take for granted, I am door knocking every day and when constituents tell me I have their support, I let them know what I really need is their vote because that is what counts on election day.”

Another candidate for the BC Liberals is Robin Adair who is hoping to win back the riding of Saanich South. Adair is a familiar face to many people having served for years as a news anchor, radio host and more recently as Chair of the Greater Victoria Chamber of Commerce.

In addition to door knocking at least several times a week Adair and his campaign team our out on the pedestrian overpasses waving signs at the commuters as they drive to work. Adair is also on Twitter and sends out messages such as “Did u know? BC housing budget this year is $469 M – the highest level ever & four times more than under the last full year of the NDP.”

John Horgan, the NDP MLA for Malahat Juan de Fuca, is in a tough race with former Colwood Mayor Jody Twa of the BC LIberals. At a breakfast event I attended on the weekend, he took pains to portray himself as a political moderate, a message that was received with some relief by the construction industry contractors he was talking to.

Horgan, if he is re-elected, will no doubt be a serious contender for the position of leader of the BC NDP. But to get re-elected he like many other candidates is out burning up the shoe leather knocking door to door, hoping that you are home and encouraging you to actually go out on vote on May 12th.

This election is going to be a nail biter for all candidates. Technology has not only affected the way we interact with politicians, it has even affected the reliability of political polls. If polling companies are only phoning landline numbers, what about the increasing number of people who only have cell phones?

Thus at the end of the day this election will not be determined by who people intended to vote for, but those who actually took the time on May 12th to get to a polling station and actually vote. There are lots of politicians who have lost by only a handful of votes who were told after the election by supporters, “I meant to go vote for you but I thought you were going to win anyways so I didn’t bother.”

The bottom line lesson here is, if you expect someone else to do your voting for you don’t be surprised if the results turn out differently than the way you wanted them to.

This blog has also been posted at vancouverite.com and on the Western Standard's Shotgun blog

Mike Geoghegan is a government relations consultant who can be reached via his website at www.bclobbyist.com or on twitter at bclobbyist

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