By Peggy Revell
Southern Alberta Newspapers
It’s a marathon, not a sprint.
That’s how local candidates are seeing the longest election in this country since 1872, with the writ dropping Sunday and Canadians heading to the polls Oct. 19.
“The bottom line is it’s going to be a marathon to try and make sure that people are paying attention to the issues,” said Liberal candidate Glen Allen for the newly formed Medicine Hat-Cardston-Warner riding. While excited and ready to go, Allen said the 11-week campaign is too long.
“I’m disappointed because this is going to cost Canadian taxpayers $175 million more,” he said, calling the long election a CPC strategy so that voters get fatigued and stop paying attention.
“They’re busy trying to figure out how to stay in power, instead of doing what’s best for Canadians.”
A positive part to the longer campaign is having more time to knock on doors and speak with people, said NDP candidate Erin Weir – a point Allen agrees with.
“It’s a little bit frustrating that it’s going to be more expensive. Obviously that’s going to benefit the party that has more money, which isn’t us,” said Weir.
“We’ll definitely have to pace ourselves for sure.”
“The fact that it’s now official doesn’t change things an awful lot because we were already campaigning, as pretty much everyone expected as the house recessed in June, that people would get geared up,” said CPC candidate Jim Hillyer, who served as MP for Lethbridge area, but is running local due to electoral boundary changes.
“I guess the difference is now you’ll start seeing signs going up and stuff like that, and more volunteers will get involved and I think the public will start to pay a little bit closer attention.”
While nominated in May, Allen said he and his team haven’t started doorknocking yet but are instead working on getting the base for the campaign established.
Weir said the local NDP is also in the planning stages for the campaign.
Hillyer said he has already started doorknocking, and holding meetings with groups. He wants people to know that while he doesn’t live in the city he won’t take support here for granted.
One contentious point during Hillyer’s 2011 campaign was him not attending various community debates and forums.
“We’ll be doing some debates but we’ll just have to figure out which ones those ones are,” he said about this campaign. “We’ll be doing some but our focus is still going to be meeting with individuals.”
But candidates aren’t so sure about the average person’s enthusiasm quite yet.
“I’m not sure Canadians are overly interested in the middle of August about a federal election,” said Allen, and his team expects to press harder as they head into September.
“There’s lots of people that don’t really care about politics, especially in the summer, that might not even be aware that the election has been called,” said Weir. “So (it’s) getting in touch with people, giving them a name and a face and an option for change.”
“I think it will still be a while before people get super excited about things,” said Hillyer.
Local issues that have been coming up so far include health care, retirement security, as well as nearby border crossings, said Weir. And then there’s the economy.
“I think a lot of it is economy, getting the economy kickstarted. It’s something that the Harper government doesn’t have the best track record on and Tom (Mulcair) has got some plans to kickstart that.”
Local representation, building the community and supporting programs that help the community are the local issues Allen said he is focused on.
“Nationally it’s going to be supporting the economy and jobs. That’s what anyone I’ve talked to, they’re talking about”
A third issue Allen sees people being upset with is the CPC government’s secrecy, lack of discussion and debate.
Hillyer said that while on the campaign trail, different people have brought up different issues – such as veteran care and the security of the country.
“Things haven’t really changed in the past four years since I’ve been an MP, where the economy is a major concern for almost everyone we talk to. Everyone wants to make sure that they can make a decent living and keep as much of the money they earn in their own pockets.”
Green party candidate Brent Smith and Canadian Action Party candidate Peter Sawrie did not return the News’s call for comments.