Nelson, B.C. - New Democrat Leader Carole James paraded down Baker
Street in Nelson, B.C., Friday as if she was the pied piper followed by
a rag-tag band of followers.
It was probably the first time in the May 12 election campaign James
attracted a sustained crowd - and what a crowd it was. Nelson, a
community that exhibits a healthy dose of counter culture and free
spirit, put that spirit on display as James visited an art gallery,
coffee shop and a museum.
It seemed to be one of the better days of a campaign that has
seen James constantly answering questions about her feud with
environmentalists over the NDP's campaign promise to dump the carbon
B.C.'s Kootenay region is traditionally an NDP stronghold and it has been hit hard by the downturn in the forest industry
Earlier Friday, James was met in Grand Forks, B.C., by a cheering group wearing "Steelworkers for Carole James" T-shirts.
The forest workers - some who are working and others who've been
laid off - said they have never been through such a difficult downturn.
Local Steelworkers Union president Bruce Gardner said the
workers feel they were abandoned by the B.C. Liberals, who had other
priorities that did not include the forest industry.
"Olympics, the B.C. Place roof all come before forestry," he said.
James told the workers she's "spent too much time in the past few years travelling to mill closures."
Grand Forks, is located near the U.S. border about 500 kilometres east of Vancouver, in the new Boundary-Similkameen riding.
It's one of six extra ridings up for grabs in the May 12
election, bringing the total number of seats in the legislature to 85
The Grand Forks region has been New Democrat territory, and
Gardner said the entire area has been hard hit by the industry
downturn, so he expects the new riding to remain with the NDP.
The riding is also one of 24 where the fledgling B.C.
Conservative party is running a candidate, which could lead to
vote-splitting with the Liberals on the right of the political
James said vote splitting could be a reality on May 12 - but not just for the Liberals.
Both the Conservatives and the Greens are running candidates,
and James doesn't dispute that Green candidates could take votes from
"There's a debate going on about whether there's vote
splitting, with a Conservative and a Green candidate," said James.
"We're focused on making sure our candidate is out there."
The B.C. Conservative candidate in Boundary-Similkameen is Joe
Cordaso, who originally tried to run for the Liberals but was dumped
when an old letter he'd written to a newspaper criticizing early
Campbell government cuts surfaced.
Grand Forks Liberal candidate Jim Slater, who stood on the
street as James walked by, said he'd rather discuss his own campaign
than potential vote splitting.
James was also slated to stop in Nelson, where popular New
Democrat Corky Evans is not seeking re-election. The riding was one of
34 held by the New Democrats when the election call came.
In a region known for its majestic mountains and lakes, James promised to phase out parking meters in B.C. parks if elected.
But it was health care cuts that prompted Grand Forks senior Kay Hunt to pledge her support for the New Democrats.
Hunt said the local hospital has seen cuts under the Liberal government.
"Our hospital here had a men's ward. They took it and made
offices out of it, and put the men and women together," he said. "I
come from the old school, and I will not be in the same room with a
man. A very good friend of mine was in a room with a man, and I think
she was so traumatized I think she died before her time."
Campbell was in Vancouver on Friday, where he put the
campaigning on hold in order to address the B.C. public about rising
fears over the swine flu.
Campbell appeared at a daily briefing by the BC Centre for
Disease Control to say that health officials in this province are
well-prepared to deal with a flu pandemic.
"People are right to be concerned about this influenza. People
are right to be diligent," he said, reminding the public of their role
in stemming the spread of the virus.
"The WHO has been warning for a long time that it has never
been a question of if we would have this occur; it was really a
question of when."