Hey-ho Kelowna West! Tomorrow’s the big day to finally send someone to Victoria to do our bidding. By-elections are generally lower-key affairs than general elections, but this year Kelowna West, and the power-fulcrum its seat holds, represents quite the narrative… oh and I think there might be some other issues flying around in the provincial political gusts as well. Let’s get to it.
What to Watch For
Even if you support them, no one feels secure rattling off the “Kelowna West’s a safe Liberal riding” truism anymore. And safe it certainly used to be. In fact it was so safe, as we all know, it became a parachute riding in 2013, when Clark lost her seat in the general election. However, demographics are changing, as are the leading economic drivers (the technology sector contributes more to the economy than oil and gas, and forestry combined), environmental concerns are creating interesting new blocs that shake up the old left/right dichotomy, and well of course there’s the wine whine – will the attack on our local wine industry bring a new twist to the vote? And finally there's the matter of our clout – that's right, this time we can provide a strong push into the political makeup of the BC government. As my hero Miss Piggy would say, "Moi?"
The Math: How Our Lil Ole Seat Shakes Things Up
A win by Stewart would give the Liberals 42 seats, an injury or illness away from toppling the NDP/Green coalition majority of 44.
A win by the NDP’s Cook would give it a one-seat edge over the Liberals, reducing its reliance on the B.C. Greens and giving it more latitude with policy initiatives.
A win by Stupka, on the other hand, would give the Greens four seats, strengthening their hand as power brokers while giving them a foothold in the Interior and bolstering their brand across the province.- John McDonald, Infotel
How Do We Support Business in this Election?
While the Liberal party has been seen as the party of big business, we do have plenty of fiscal conservatives running here. The Conservatives, Libertarians and the Green Party all have extremely pro-market platforms – even the NDP has impressed the business community, standing up for the softwood lumber industry as it did and maintaining stable and rising markets in the transition to the “left”.
Everybody wants to be seen as pro-business, so what does this mean really? Without concrete statements about particular businesses or policy, does it mean anything?
Ben Stewart, last time and this time around, is campaigning on the strength of the economy overall. They have done so before to success, but last time this vagueness and yay-capitalism approach cost them trust and ultimately votes. Those lingering campaign finance (they can't quit them) and ethical issues such as waving the utilities commission review of the Site C dam which was later found not to be needed, have left those out the loop frustrated. Moreover, will his rosy view of massive resource-based projects cause him to get hit by the Christie Clark shitstick once again? Clark just waded back into provincial politics saying BC government’s pipeline block is “illegal”. Leaving us to, perhaps unfairly, conflate and conclude which side of his wishy-washy pro-wine/small business, pro-pipeline side he’s really on.
The Green Party is not so anti-development these days, being more about tech innovation than road blockades, they strongly emphasize marketplace "disruption" (with little government regulation in many cases – the sharing economy for example). So disabuse yourself of any woo-woo notions, these guys mean business. Be sure though, that a Robert Stupka vote is a strong vote to move attention from the resource sector to the tech sector.
The NDP have historically been painted as pinkos who will level the equality of outcome. The present NDP administration is more pragmatic than those in the past, and Shelley Cook sees Kelowna’s growth tied to creating initiatives that bring the “creative class” to Kelowna by investing in tech and livable spaces – in effect creating a level of opportunity. Keep in mind they rode to power strongly criticizing the expansion of the Trans Mountain pipeline, preferring to create room for all sectors of the economy.
This Brings Us to the Wine Whine…
Wowzers, this is a political hot potato that Alberta Premiere Rachel Notley just threw into Kelowna West's lap. Will anyone be able to turn this one into a win?
The NDP’s stance is that this pipeline issue should be sorted out in the courts, not the liquor store shelves. My question is, shouldn’t the NDP just straight up pander to us winos and say they’ll get the Horgan administration to cut into the massive retail markup for BC wine until the wine embargo ends?
Stupka has the most forceful reaction of the bunch, stating that “it is outrageous and petty that Rachel Notley is using BC wine producers as pawns in her attempt to start a trade war”.
You may believe that “the [BC] premier has stumbled into this reckless trade war with Alberta, [and] he’s the one who pushed the wine sector into the line of fire,” as Stewart claims, with the solution being that “Kelowna West residents can send a message that it’s time for the BC NDP to stop the wine war — and stand up for B.C. jobs by voting B.C. Liberal.” Mmkay.
And Mark Thompson saw this as an opening for his own political grandstanding, as he did all over our FB post.
So Will This Have Much Effect?
I mean Notley's intending this to play to the Alberta electorate, perhaps to separate herself from the too-green BC NDP, and using the by-election attention to catapult her messaging, so what do we care?
Will former Albertans vote for pro-pipeline Stewart? The same Stewart of Quails' Gate? The ones who moved here for the wines and nature? Will we vote to back our current government (Green or NDP) just because we don’t appreciate our region's primo asset being picked on by big petroleum from outside? Does this whole childish game just make us want to drown in Chardonnay?
Are we all just smh-ing while she thinks she's sticking it to those BC coastal elites sipping pinot and virtue signalling eco-concerns, but is actually hurting Okanagan farmers and small business owners.
Also we should be beware of false dichotomies: you can be pro pipeline and pro BC wine. I suppose, but you know the saying... it’s never a great idea to shit where you eat. Maybe environmental concerns and farming are pretty connected after all.
So Okay, We Got Dragged Into The Pipeline Position
Well I guess we have to go there since the GreeNDP did block the expansion. The government of the day feels we need more testing to prevent/explore repercussions of a bitumen spill on Canada's highly populated and environmentally and culturally (and culturally land-linked) rich coast.
Here are the candidates' main Kinder Morgan pipeline positions in a nutshell: Stewart says the Liberals are for the pipeline saying the environmental standards are fine. Stupka and the Greens point to lack of testing, demanding an evidence-based approach, and the NDP's Cook wants to protect BC’s land and water.
Vote-splitting: Will The Right Be The Victim This Time?
“Splitting the left” has usually helped the party to the right-of-centre (recently the Liberals) in the Okanagan, but we are starting to see new allegiances emerging and blocs forming around environmental issues and technological growth.
Wealthy fiscal conservatives with a green conscious are voting Green – just look at the riding of Oak Bay which elected Andrew Weaver (or West Vancouver during the Sea to Sky/Eagleridge anti-development activism – not insignificantly, pitting the bougiest of environmentalists against Former Finance Minister, Kevin Falcon – Ben Stewart’s pick for leader). While it may be tempting to write this off as sellout-boomers with fleeting guilty consciences likely to return to their material interests at the end of the day, there is one fact that is rock solid about boomers: there are a LOT of them (and they are no doubt flowing to Kelowna as they age)… so it is a numbers game that the Greens seem psyched to take their chances on no doubt. Watch the Greens cut into the Liberals here.
As regards to the economy, it's hard to say if the emerging tech industry will vote Liberal (Club Penguin co-founder and tech-leader, Dave Krysko endorsed the Greens). While lean start-ups are obviously tax and regulation averse, they see potential windfall in programs to spur innovation, and policies to combat the sky-high prices facing city renters. The young capitalists of the future can’t even afford Vancouver, so policy to combat a housing crisis while also supporting start-up growth might bring today's entrepreneurs and young professionals a little more to the left. I see some gains for the NDP and Greens here.
But as they say, if it ain’t broke don’t fix it. This depends on how “broke” you think we are. Liberals are saying notsomuch (they may regret that "there's no housing-crisis" statement yet); Greens say, quite a bit – our reliance on massive resource projects are preventing us from innovating; and the NDP weigh in with the Greens on the broke-scale, saying we need to make the city more affordable and livable for everyone and that needs real policy solutions, not lip-service. The Liberals still have a lot to gain by a status quo approach and a fairly transient young, and mildly apathetic, electorate here.
Alrighty, that ties up our Kelowna West By-election series. Now, check the polling locations below, and set some time aside to vote tomorrow. This one counts bigly.
First Baptist Church, 1309 Bernard Ave, Kelowna, BC
George Pringle School, 3770 Elliott Rd, West Kelowna, BC
Grace Baptist Church, 1150 Glenmore Dr, Kelowna, BC
Kelowna Curling Club, 551 Recreation Ave, Kelowna, BC
Killiney Beach Community Hall, 516 Udell Rd, Killiney Beach, BC
Lakeview Heights Baptist Church, 2630 Alhambra Dr, West Kelowna, BC
Powers Creek Community Church, 3718 Glenway Rd, West Kelowna, BC
Rose Valley School, 1680 Westlake Rd, West Kelowna, BC
St. Pius X Church Hall 1077 Fuller Ave, Kelowna, BC
Super 8 West Kelowna Hotel, 1655 Westgate Rd, West Kelowna, BC
Westside Alliance Church, 2011 Daimler Dr, West Kelowna, BC
Also in this series:Kelowna West By-election Part 2: All Candidates Forum Downtown – What they Said
Kelowna West By-election Part 1: Meet the Candidates