Neophyte politician NDP candidate Jon Van Barneveld tells the people he meets it’s time for change. Some agree, others do not and still others keep their opinions to themselves.
Most pause graciously, if briefly, for a conversation with the lanky university student when they are politely cornered in the parking lot of a local grocery store.
He queries the effects of rising food prices, the impact of the HST, the state of the forest industry, seniors poverty, pensions, day care, the state of small business and commiserates on the impact of the long-gun registry and with a forestry worker who complains bitterly about raw-log exports.
One lady cradling a child in her arms responds to the NDP’s proposal of a national daycare system with, “that would be cool.” She agrees these days it’s hard for parents to work and raise children.
Another woman loading groceries into her car says her pension is “enough for now” but that she doesn’t think it will be for long.
A ministry of forest worker tells Van Barneveld he was glad to have survived the provincial ministry cutbacks over the last few years but that has left fewer staff taking control of ever larger expanses of Crown land.
A retiree said that while he was doing alright he felt sorry for future pensioners. He acknowledged that elderly women, many of whom worked in the home or worked for short periods of time throughout their lifetimes, may now be facing poverty as seniors.
When challenged by one individual with the uncomfortable truth that the NDP is not likely to form the next government, Van Barneveld coolly counters that the party is still an important player when it comes to developing policy.
“We do have an impact,” he said. “Health care, pensions are NDP policies.”
The couple then expresses their general dissatisfaction with all the parties and although they “always voted” Conservative they say, “We don’t like what they’re doing.”
That’s neither the endorsement nor the outright rejection of a few minutes earlier when a shopper hurried past Van Barneveld throwing over his shoulder he wasn’t voting NDP. Another one, wearing a Canucks jersey, also brushes him off but not before Van Barneveld can enquire about whether he was happy about the Canucks win. “Yes” and then, “I don’t bother with politics.”
A woman, flanked by her husband, tells Van Barneveld that she’s going to keep working for another two years to top up her Canada pension. She added she would have been happy to contribute more to her CPP over the years.
On a break at a local coffee shop, Van Barneveld connects with another retiree concerned his pensions — company, CPP and Old Age Security — won’t be enough he thinks.
“The cost of gas and goods, everything has gone up. Property tax, everything keeps going up,” he said.
“I feel as a senior we haven’t gained anything in the last few years.”
Regardless of whether Van Barneveld’s party’s platform appeals, there is little doubt that he represents a youthful interest in party politics. Whether it’s indicative of a larger trend isn’t clear but certainly the Liberals sent a young candidate to represent their interests in the riding. The bespectacled young man, who was a child when Conservative MP Dick Harris was first sent to the Hill, is pragmatic about the morning’s near endorsements and outright rejections.
“Every issue affects everyone but people have other issues that are more dear to their hearts. Every platform has nuggets some people like more than others.”
Van Barneveld doesn’t so but it’s implied that he hopes his platform is the one that resonates the most.
Canvassing the public is not unfamiliar territory for candidates. Green party candidate Heidi Redl attempted to canvass at Boitanio Mall during this campaign; however, she was turned away by mall staff who told her political messages were not allowed.
For more stories on candidates and the upcoming election May 2, visit wltribune.com and click Election.