OPINION: The NDP owes it to voters to try in long-shot seats

Out-of-town NDP candidates haven’t even bothered to engage with voters on social media

Abbotsford News reporter Tyler Olsen

Abbotsford News reporter Tyler Olsen

Campaigning for election is hard. Or at least, it should be hard if you’re actually trying to court voters.

Door-knocking can be awkward, all-candidates meetings can be intimidating, interviews with the media can be fraught with peril, and just attaching one’s name to a party’s loaded brand is enough to scare many possible politicians away.

So those who do run deserve applause for partaking in the core exercise of Canadian democracy.

The parties, on the other hand, are institutions that exist both to seek power, and to provide citizens with options when they cast their votes. And parties that don’t fulfill those duties don’t deserve a free pass.

The NDP’s candidates in Abbotsford South and Abbotsford-Mission – Jasleen Arora and Andrew Christie, respectively – live in Metro Vancouver and have barely been seen here since the campaign kicked off more than two weeks ago.

Christie did visit on Monday, and sat down for an interview with me. He said he had previously visited a couple of times, and had spoken to voters over the phone. But he said his work limited his availability, and had kept him from an all-candidates forum on disability issues last week.

Arora wasn’t available to be interviewed, and has also missed at least one all-candidates meeting. An all-candidates forum for her riding was set for Thursday evening, but as of eight hours before the event, organizers hadn’t heard anything from Arora’s campaign, despite repeated attempts to contact them.

If campaign signs for the pair exist, no one I’ve spoken to has seen them.

I don’t blame the individuals for this; again, at least they allowed their names to be put on the ballot. But it’s shameful that the NDP has shown so little willingness to challenge the incumbent BC Liberals in the two ridings. (In Abbotsford West, Preet Rai is very much trying to win, to his credit.)

Abbotsford is a BC Liberal stronghold, and an NDP victory would be a huge upset. But it shouldn’t be too much to ask the NDP – one of the two largest parties in our province – to at least go through the motions of trying to hold our local MLAs accountable.

Instead, the NDP seems to be trying to pour all its energy into ridings where they think they can win. That’s the party’s right, but you have got to wonder about the long-term effect on the party here. Abbotsford’s changing demographics suggest the city will become more competitive in the future. Thousands of people will still likely vote for the NDP in the two ridings this year, and maybe a couple will figure they can do better in four years time. But the NDP’s actions in this election make one wonder if the NDP will bother to engage with such potential candidates going forward.

A recent Saturday Night Live skit mocked those proud of the seconds they spend posting politically conscious material on Facebook from the comfort of their own homes. After all, posting an opinion or a link on Facebook, Twitter or Instagram is the absolute least one can do. Creating a Facebook or Twitter page is so easy that when a runaway llama makes news, satirical Twitter accounts bearing the name of the animal pop up within minutes.

Neither Christie nor Arora nor the NDP’s staff have even done that for the party’s campaigns in Abbotsford South and Abbotsford-Mission. When we spoke, I asked Christie whether, since he was busy with work, he could at least engage with voters through social media. He said it was “a good idea.”

Three days later, there’s still no sign of neither out-of-town NDP candidate online. Still plenty of Twitter llamas, though.

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