It's off to the hustings for federal election candidates in northeast B.C.
As of Tuesday, Elections Canada said there were no candidates officially confirmed in the Prince George-Peace River-Northern Rockies riding, however, incumbent Conservative MP Bob Zimmer and Maverick Party challenger Dave Jeffers have both hit the ground running.
Zimmer said the timing of the snap election, set for Sept. 20, was inappropriate in light of the extreme wildfire season in B.C.
"A lot of people have said it's a bad time to call an election, especially with concerns from wildfire folks," said Zimmer. "In our region many are preoccupied with that, it's a big concern. But I've also heard from constituents that they're tired of the current Prime Minister and the government that's there and they're ready for a change."
Jeffers agreed, noting the COVID-19 pandemic is not over.
"I think it's horrible. I think there's a lot of people who are legitimately worried and concerned about going to the polls or going anywhere," said Jeffers. "Maybe not as much in this riding, but the federal election doesn't revolve around this riding — it's everybody."
Zimmer was first elected in 2011, and is seeking a fourth term after retaining his seat in the 2015 and 2019 elections. Advocating for resource industries remains a core pillar of the Conservative party, Zimmer said, noting he’s heard from many in the region who are worried about economic uncertainty and lack of investor confidence in the country.
"We're doing what we've always done, being supporters of the firearms community here, supporters of the outdoor community. We've been doing a lot of work on the arbitrary closures and trying to be a voice for them in Ottawa," said Zimmer.
"One of the biggest issues in our riding is the natural resource sector, whether it's forestry or oil and gas, just to have some confidence that a government is looking out for their best interests."
The Maverick Party was formally launched last September, formerly called Wexit, to represent Western Canadian interests in Ottawa. Former Peace region MP Jay Hill is the party’s interim leader, and Jeffers says carving a new and better deal for Western Canada remains at the top of his party's mind.
"Environment and energy are the two key issues that I've spoken about, those will be front and centre for the campaign," said Jeffers. "Those are two personal issues for me, resource development and having been in resource development for the last 25 years."
Jeffers said he wants to see a revision of equalization payments from Western provinces to the East, and a reversal of the carbon tax.
"Either repealing it or rewriting to make it more fair," said Jeffers of the payments from B.C. and Alberta. "What we're looking for is western province autonomy, so we can have united front in the House of Commons, so we can be treated fairly. Maybe for the first time since confederacy."
The Liberals and NDP have not formally listed candidates on their websites.
Dawson Creek resident Cory Longley announced his intention to run for the NDP in June, and said Tuesday that his party was finalizing its nominations later that night.
"My BC NDP campaign in Peace River South last Fall further ignited my lifelong passion for progressive politics, and I believe wholeheartedly in the NDP's goals and values," Longley said in a post announcing his intentions earlier this summer. "Some may say this is a challenging riding, but I see an area that deserves better than what 49 years of conservative representatives have brought to the table."
Catharine Kendall is listed as the candidate for the Greens. Kendall is a community development consultant based in Prince George, and ran for the party in the 2019 election. Kendall could not be reached for comment.
The nomination process for candidates closes Monday, Aug. 30, according to Elections Canada. A complete list of confirmed candidates will be available Wednesday, Sept. 1.
Election day goes Sept. 20 with four days of advanced voting set for Sept. 10 to 13.
Tom Summer, Alaska Highway News, Local Journalism Initiative. Email Tom at email@example.com