According to supporters of NDP candidate Shelley Cook, Premier John Horgan did make a brief stop in the Kelowna West riding Feb. 1 after he was in Lake Country to announce funding for new school. The media were not informed of Horgan’s stop, he did not mention it when asked directly in Lake Country if he would campaign with Cook and no news of the appearance was made public after the event.
It’s voting day in Kelowna West and barring a last-minute surprise appearance by Premier John Horgan to support his candidate, it would appear Shelley Cook is fighting this political battle on her own.
Unlike the B.C. Green Party, whose leader Andrew Weaver has been in the riding several times stumping for Green candidate Robert Stupka, and first, all of the B.C. Liberal leadership candidates, and then eventual winner Andrew Wilkinson doing the same for Liberal candidate Ben Stewart, Premier Horgan has been conspicuously absent during the 29-day campaign.
What must be galling for Cook is he did come to the Central Okanagan to announce funding for a new school in Lake Country a couple of weeks ago but didn’t bother to extend his trip a few miles down Highway 97 to provide Cook with some needed public campaign face-time with her.
Asked in Lake Country if he would be doing that, all Horgan would tell my Capital News colleague Carli Berry was he supports Cook. Well, of course he does. He had to approve her candidacy to run for his party.
Given Horgan’s need for every NDP seat he can muster in the B.C. Legislature, what’s with his seemingly hands-off approach to getting his candidate elected?
It’s no secret Kelowna West has been a right-of-centre stronghold when it comes to electing MLAs in the past. But that was always during right-of-centre government mandates in B.C.—first with the Socreds in power and then the Liberals.
In the last week Horgan has obviously had his hands full with his Alberta counterpart taking direct aim at B.C.’s wine industry in the trade battle over the Kinder Morgan Trans Mountain Pipeline. But that was not the case three weeks ago.
Besides, you would think a public show of support by the premier for the B.C. wine industry—in the heart of wine country—would be even more of a reason for Horgan to come here during the byelection campaign.
Instead, he left Wilkinson and Weaver to stake out that ground, doing so with Stewart and Stupka standing by their sides and, by association, getting part of the publicity generated by their respective bosses.
There’s no doubt Alberta Premier Rachel Notley knew what she was doing when she lashed out at B.C. wine last week. She knew there was a byelection happening here and she knew it would make headlines on the eve of the byelection vote.
Horgan may claim he does not want to get into a public shouting match with Notley but in politics appearances matter.
Yesterday, Notley ratcheted up the pressure announcing she was giving the federal government just days to get B.C. in line when it comes to the pipeline or she will escalate Alberta’s response to Horgan’s talk of limiting the amount of bitumen to be transported in the expanded pipeline.
And by doing that, it keeps the trade dispute front and centre as voters head to the polls today in Kelowna West. Whether he’s right or wrong, that doesn’t look good for the Horgan or the NDP.
Alistair Waters is the assistant editor of the Capital News.