Dethroning the NDP in Kootenay West a tall order

Ray Maslek shares his thoughts on the upcoming provincial election.

This riding has been mostly a safe seat for the New Democrats for over 40 years. But the fact the Liberals are running, at the last-minute, a candidate with neither a public profile nor any political experience is another indication of how far the government’s fortunes have sunken.

With nine victories in the past 10 elections in the various constituencies that have included Trail and Castlegar (Kootenay West, West Kootenay-Boundary, Rossland-Trail), the New Democrats are not exactly ripe for picking off. But in past elections, a conservative-minded small-town pol could at last fantasize about making the leap to the big time, and in the 2001 NDP wipe-out former Trail Mayor Sandy Santori actually managed the feat.

Liberal Jim Postnikoff sounds like a nice guy – a life-long Shoreacres resident, he has been a tradesman, small businessman, and active community volunteer – but presumably even he realizes he is merely falling on his sword so the Liberals don’t have to suffer the ignominy of letting the party go totally dark in Kootenay West.

For the 2009 campaign, just before the HST debacle demonstrated that the government could  be neither believed nor trusted, local Liberals managed to convince popular former Castlegar city councillor Brenda Binnie to run a month before the election.

But with no real campaign team to take on the well-organized and entrenched New Democrats, she was was flattened. MLA Katrine Conroy was re-elected with 67 per cent of the vote, one of the largest majorities in the province.

The last local Liberal with any possible reason to believe was Pam Lewin, who ran in 2005 when the disillusioned and ailing Santori – after one term and a cabinet posting – decided not to seek re-election. But Chamber of Commerce manager Lewin, who had topped the polls as a Trail city councillor, was trounced by  Conroy. The then rookie NDP candidate  gained  60 per cent of the vote, 10 more percentage points than Santori did in the Liberal landslide of 2001, when the New Democrats were reduced to only two seats across the province.

For the 2001 election, and also when the Liberals first looked like contenders provincially in 1996, there were multiple serious candidates for the party’s nomination locally and they signed up hundreds of new party members.

This year the meeting to officially hand the dubious honour to the only willing candidate could have been held in a pup tent.

What would it take to beat Conroy? Short of her untimely demise or the revelation that she was formerly a tall, good-looking Danish man named Sigvard before having a sex-change operation (not that there would be anything wrong with that, as the comedian Jerry Seinfeld used to say), it is hard to conjure up what that could be.

Perhaps a revelation that she and former MLA husband Ed, along with other party stalwarts, had secretly bought the NDP’s famously-failed fast ferries (4F) through a numbered company registered in the Republic of Nauru, and had been using them to run lightning trips under the cover of darkness into the Central Coast with illegal aliens from Lesotho.

This scandal would be uncovered after the wash from the ferries was found to have nudged Vancouver Island 50 metres to the south.

This lack of possibilities in terms of the outcome does have a depressing effect on voter behaviour. When change was in the air in 2001, three quarters of the eligible local voters turned up at the polls. Last time the number was down below 60 per cent and, unless local voters are still so steamed at the Liberals underhanded imposition of the HST that they turn do dance on the party’s grave, the number seems likely to fall further in this election.

Less than 40 per cent of registered voters aged 18-24 across the province voted in 2009, but the turnout is even worse than this seems because a smaller proportion of citizens in this age bracket are registered. Only about 25 pr cent of eligible young voters bothered to vote..

With the lack of politically viable choices locally, it will be difficult to answer the eternal electoral question of young adults – why should I bother?

There is also twenty-something village councillor Joseph Hughes from Nakusp who is running as an Independent and talking about, among other things, using new media to engage citizens.

So how about using your smartphones for something other than endless blather texting, making the effort to find out what it’s all about, and giving it a try?

Raymond Masleck is a retired Trail Times reporter.