Nothing about 2020 has been normal and that’s holding true for conducting an election campaign as well. The North Island riding’s four candidates are all having to improvise as they endeavour to get the word out about their candidacy all while respecting COVID-19 restrictions.
Green Party candidate Alexandra Morton has never conducted a political campaign before at any level so does not have previous practice to fall back on. She’s just going by best COVID-19 practices.
“I’ve never really gone about politicking,” Morton said, “but I am doing everything virtually.”
Morton said she was going to be in Campbell River last night for the all-candidates’ debate at the Tidemark Theatre “because they are the only community that wants this debate to be in-person which is a little bit alarming to me but I am going to trust them to do it in a safe way.” (The debate was held after this edition of the paper went to press – see www.campbellrivermirror.com and next week’s paper for coverage)
“I’m adhering to everything Dr. Bonnie Henry is saying,” Morton said. “Watching the relationship between her and the provincial government has been a relief to me. I mean, that’s the other thing the NDP have done well. They have actually responded to the science. So I am not going to make matters worse by going door-to-door, or by passing around pieces of paper.”
Morton is using social media and inviting people to set up Zoom calls with her and calling “absolutely everyone I can think of to learn more about these different industries, these important industries and also the mayors.”
BC Conservative candidate John Twigg, says, “As a candidate for a small party, my campaign strategy has not been changed much by COVID-19; I wear a mask more often but not always, and COVID is only a small factor in my probably deciding to not drive to some out-of-town all-candidates meetings.”
An important factor is that North Island continues to have a relatively low incidence of COVID in its communities, Twigg adds.
“Probably the biggest change for me has been a reduced amount of hand-shaking and an increased use of elbow-bumping when I’m out meeting people or in places like church,” he said.
NDP candidate Michele Babchuk replied by saying, “Firstly, I want to offer my condolences to the families and friends who are grieving the passing of a loved one during this pandemic.”
She then added that the COVID-19 pandemic has impacted everything in our lives and has changed the way we do so many things and the election campaign is no exception.
“The BC NDP decided at the beginning of the campaign that door-knocking would not be part of our campaigning activities. This applies to all communities in B.C., urban, rural and First Nations. During this stressful and uncertain time, it is important to me that people in North Island feel that their personal health and safety is being respected and protected,” she said. “That said, finding safe ways to connect with people is my top priority. Our campaign is reaching out to neighbours, community groups, and leaders through social media, email and telephone calls. And we are engaging in other creative ways as well.”
Babchuk will participate in all-candidates debates hosted by Zoom and she’s been holding “virtual coffee parties” to be able to spend time with people in the riding. Her campaign office is following strict COVID-19 protocols with staff wearing masks, staying distanced and sanitizing surfaces.
“We have looked for every opportunity to connect with people outdoors, from waving on the roadside with our signs to commuters heading to work, to meeting with community leaders for a walk to discuss important issues,” Babchuk said.
Norm Facey says this election is being run on the video-conferencing app Zoom. Just like it is for many other facets of life these days.
“Zoom is just a way of life these days,” Facey said.
He agrees that campaigning this year is significantly different from previous years. Besides much more Zoom interaction, Facey said he’s campaigning without mass gatherings and small campaign team sessions.
“That’s significantly different,” he said.
But despite COVID-19, if you use a mask, respect social distancing and stay away from the crowds, people are more than willing to talk.
“It’s more ground game, is what I’m seeing,” Facey said. “More time going out and finding the individuals to get your message out.”