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Election BC: Candidates on trail differ on door knocking

Election BC: Candidates on trail differ on door knocking

Dale Boyd

Local Journalism Initiative Reporter

A snap election during a global pandemic is sure to be one for the history books in B.C., leaving a challenge for campaigns strategizing how to best get out the vote safely.

The first two candidates out of the gate — the BC NDP’s Roly Russell and BC Liberal’s Petra Veintimilla —have been pounding the pavement in the geographically large Boundary Similkameen riding for the past week.

The most prominent difference in strategy between the two largest provincial parties is door-knocking, a traditional campaign tool the BC NDP decided to opt out of while Veintimilla has been visiting residents to talk from a distance on the doorstep.

“We just know that door-knocking is one of the better ways to engage voters. We know that people have so many other things on their mind right now, aside from an election in the middle of a pandemic, and so we want to be able to bring the issues straight to them,” Veintimilla said. “We had to feel it out obviously and see if it was something that people would be receptive to. And so far, so good, the reception on the doorstep has been positive. People appreciate that we are door-knocking in a safe and COVID-friendly manner. In fact, we have guidelines to do so.”

Veintimilla said after knocking, she stands at least six feet from the door with a mask and sanitizes her hands.

Russell and the NDP on the other hand have done away with door knocking for the 2020 election.

“The NDP decision to not door knock, I think is really being made with that safety-first approach and taking the high road in how we’re going to do that,” Russell said. “But it’s certainly added some complications to the strategy in terms of how do we get that message out to show people who we are and what we’ve done?”

BC NDP candidate Roly Russell at a socially-distanced campaign event last week. Photo: Roly Russell for Boundary Similkameen/Facebook

Both campaigns held small events in communities across the riding over the weekend, with some nice fall weather helping both hold safer outdoor events.

“I have worked on provincial campaigns before, and this is nothing like I’ve ever experienced. The fact that you can’t have the traditional large gatherings, the sort of energy-building gatherings, those sorts of things,” Veintimilla said.

Other than refusing the odd reflexive handshake, Russell says voters showing up to his events are well aware of the precautions necessary to hold meet-and-greets. Rallying energy in both the voters and the volunteer base stretching from Princeton to Christina Lake has been a challenge through Zoom calls and social media for both campaigns.

“We’re getting better at that as well in terms of figuring out ways to rally the team. And you know, I missed the event that I have never had, which is having my whole campaign team in a room together just to be excited and enthusiastic,” Russell said.

Both campaigns are putting a heavier emphasis on social media engagement as well in 2020. Russell’s campaign launch was held virtually with MP Richard Cannings, Penticton candidate for the BC NDP and Summerland Mayor Toni Boot showing up as guests.

Veintimilla, last week endorsed by former MLA Bill Barisoff, is hopeful a heavier emphasis on social media could broaden engagement with voters.

“Even beyond the social media, the virtual meet-and-greets and the online forums and that sort of thing, hopefully they actually help with greater engagement,” Veintimilla said. “If you can get people to know what’s happening and when it’s happening, they can join from the comfort of their own homes.”

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