Election Fever in Quesnel

Posted by Gordon Dunlop on December 2, 2015

Upon arrival with our Warm Showers hosts, Grant and Katie in Quesnel, not only did we get a welcoming hug but (“never mind the handshake, you get a hug when you come to our house” went the cheery Irish welcome!) on hearing I was Scottish, Katie had very kindly recorded the Scotland V Australia rugby world cup ¼ final for us to watch. Having watched my reaction as the Scotland football team managed to snatch defeat from the jaws of victory against Poland a week before, Meg truly understood Scottish “glorious failure” after another last-minute capitulation against Australia in the rugby. We were treated to a delicious roast dinner and an evening of rugby and Irish history chats, before deciding to take Grant and Katie up on their offer to stay another night and to watch the election coverage with them the following day.

On our road south, we had passed countless signs by the roadside promoting the local candidates for the upcoming national election. The topic had increasingly dominated the chats we would have with the locals we bumped into along the way. In the more rural parts of the Yukon and BC, people tended to be concerned about employment opportunities in the local area and so the economy was high on their agenda. Environmental issues would often come to the fore too, particularly in relation to the various parties’ stance on the proposed Keystone XL oil pipeline. In the Yukon and northern BC, the locals tended to be leaning slightly right of centre whereas, the further south we got towards central BC, the majority seemed to be leaning left. The locals here spoke very highly of the local candidate for the socialist NDP party, Nathan Cullen (whose name we’d seen on hundreds of roadside signs en route) who is viewed as a future party leader. The general theme we got from most political conversation throughout Canada was of “anyone but Harper!” After 10 years of near dictatorial regime (and more than their fair share of questionable policies) under the Conservative Stephen Harper, it certainly felt like Canada was ready for a change!

Our hosts in Quesnel certainly fell into the ‘anyone but Harper” bracket. Grant was a onetime Campaign Manager for the Liberal Party and Katie, having recently obtained her Canadian citizenship, was a first time voter and had been pounding the streets, canvassing for the NDP. Added to the mix was their son who was working as a Campaign Manager for one of the Green Party candidates on Vancouver Island. It was fascinating to spend election day in such a politically engaged household and there was a great sense of anticipation – and slight trepidation – as to how events would unfold. While Katie spent the day working at the local polling station (most likely as a means of containing her excitement at being able to vote for the first time!) Meg and I spent the day watching the election coverage with Grant and being educated on Canadian history, politics, geography and more. Grant was also keen to learn more of the recent Scottish Independence Referendum. This has been a recurring conversation throughout our trip and poor Meg could probably recite my spiel word for word as I never tend to miss the opportunity to get on my soap box when the subject arises!

Katie arrived home later that afternoon before heading out again to cast her vote. Meg decided to accompany her and felt very privileged at being able to share in a moment that meant so much to Katie – being able to vote, for the first time, in a country she had lived for the past 32 years! The evening coverage was a strange experience as, being in a time zone three hours behind the most populated areas of Canada, we started to get a fairly clear picture of the result by around 9pm. This is in contrast to the UK where my political anorak of a brother will stay up all night to follow the “political theatre” of a UK election to its climax! By 10pm the Liberal Party and their leader, Justin Trudeau, had been declared the winner and there were a mix of emotions around the room.

Happiness for Grant mixed with relief for Katie while there was a shared sense of disappointment too for their son as his Green Party candidate failed to get elected on Vancouver Island. As for Meg and I, we felt privileged to have shared in such a momentous day in Canada’s recent history with such an interesting, knowledgeable and politically active family. Trudeau’s acceptance speech was certainly impassioned and sincere (for a politician) and it remains to be seen whether he, and the Liberals, can walk the walk. However, I was happy to see a positive politics win the day as the Liberal campaign had seemed to focus on what positive changes the party would make in government. This was in contrast to the fear mongering and negative politics of the Conservative campaign – tactics which were all too prominent, yet ultimately successful, in the recent UK general election and Scottish Independence Referendum.

It will be interesting to see what the next few weeks hold while travelling through the US in the lead up to the presidential primaries and caucuses. Travelling through liberal pockets of the Pacific Northwest, we’ve seen enough roadside signs in support of Bernie Sanders to suggest he has a chance of winning the Democrat nomination but will he ultimately be Trumped by Donald? Now there’s a thought with which to end an ‘Uplifting News’ post!