Election campaigns are usually affairs with big events, lots of hand-shaking and plenty of smiling faces.
However, things have to be a bit different this time around, due to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic. The candidates in the North Island-Powell River riding have adapted their campaigning strategies to ensure the safety of all involved.
“I think we have to be really sensitive during this time, especially as numbers are going up in our province,” said New Democratic Party candidate Rachel Blaney. “For us, we’re doing our best to make sure that whenever we’re with people inside, we’re wearing masks… We want to make sure people feel as safe as possible when we’re talking to them about this really important election. I’m doing a lot more phone calling than I have… I think we all have to continue to be cautious, even though its challenging.”
“We want things to go back to normal, but the reality is they are not normal,” she added. “We’re not going to be having the big rallies and exciting things that we usually do. Any kind of gathering will be done in a different way to make sure that we’re appreciating those rules that we should be following from a public health point of view. We’ll just continue to do this work. We’re not out of the woods yet.”
Green Party of Canada candidate Jessica Wegg said their plan is to keep an eye on the situation and proceed accordingly.
“We are not asking (volunteers) to disclose their vaccine status, but we are asking them to not volunteer for positions that would put them in person-to-person contact with constituents,” she said. “Respecting the privacy rights of individuals in regards to their vaccine status, and to address the very legitimate concerns of people who are still worried about the pandemic and what’s happening.”
The Conservative Party of Canada candidate Shelley Downey will be adhering to local health guidelines. She says that her team “is out door-knocking and are conscious to keep their distance at the doors. We stand back a minimum distance of six feet and often further back.”
“On the doors I am still hearing that we should not be having an election,” she added. “Last night I was told it was ‘shameful for the government to have called an election now.’”
For the Liberal Party of Canada, candidate Dr. Jennifer Grenz said the large geographical area of the riding lends itself well to the kind of campaigning made necessary by the pandemic.
“There’s some advantage to being in a riding like ours where the city version of campaigning isn’t the most effective way of gathering all the voices and concerns of the people,” she said. “We cover a vast area, with many many small communities and people living between those communities.… Less pressure of having to spend time at things like events and having more time to have one-on-one discussions or have discussion with community is going to actually help me understand what the issues are and where people need help.”