Less than two months before the Oct. 21 federal election, two of Canada's most prominent political parties have yet to field a candidate in the Sea to Sky.
Though word on the street at press time was that the Liberals have a replacement lined up to run in the stead of outgoing MP Pamela Goldsmith-Jones, no one from Goldsmith-Jones' office or the riding association responded to repeated requests for information before Pique's weekly deadline on Aug. 27.*
The NDP, meanwhile, have a potential candidate going through the vetting process, said riding association president Larry Koopman, but no timeline for when he or she might be confirmed.
In their absence, the riding's three other confirmed candidates—the Conservative Party's Gabrielle Loren, the Green Party's Dana Taylor and the People's Party's Robert (Doug) Bebb—have been making tracks up and down the Sea to Sky.
"Probably the most of my time has been spent door knocking and connecting with various people in the constituency," Loren said, noting that she's spent time in Whistler, Pemberton and Squamish so far.
"It's amazing. It's a great experience meeting people and just asking them what are some of their concerns, and the answers just vary from one extreme to the other, so that's pretty cool."
Concerns from the constituents range from taxes in West Vancouver and healthcare on the Sunshine Coast to the environment and housing in Whistler, Squamish and Pemberton, Loren said.
"A lot of people want something different—they don't really like what's going on right now. That seems to be, I want to say, an undertone there," she said.
"They're not really clear on what they want, though, I've got a lot of undecided [responses]. A lot of people are really hesitant, too, whether they're hesitant to say which way they're leaning, or they just really are undecided."
Bebb and Taylor have also been pounding the campaign trail, and had a brief, friendly encounter at Bowfest on Bowen Island on Aug. 24, where the two campaigns had tents set up for the community's annual end-of-summer festival.
"I said, 'You know, nothing personal, but I'm going to have to attack your policies,'" Bebb said.
"And he says to me, 'Well no, that's OK, because I'm going to get on yours.'"
It should come as no surprise that the two candidates are at odds; the People's Party of Canada's (PPC) official stance is that there is no scientific consensus that humans are causing climate change, while the Green Party policy maintains that "ambitious climate action is the only way forward."
Bebb knows that the PPC's climate message may prove controversial at the various all-candidates debates planned for the Sea to Sky.
"I expect to get a bunch of attacks is what I expect to get," he said.
"But I can hold my own ... public speaking is not something I normally do, but give and take in debate, I can handle that pretty well."
Bebb said that, as a fledgling party, the PPC has had to "do it all from scratch," and his time was initially spent setting up IT for websites, managing contacts and "boring stuff like that," but now that's all taken care of, his calendar is filling up fast.
The PPC candidate spent some time on the Sunshine Coast and met with outgoing MP Goldsmith-Jones at her Horseshoe Bay office before attending Bowfest on Bowen Island and flying to Ottawa for the PPC's national convention.
"I think we get a lot more support from people who are just too afraid to voice their political opinions," Bebb said, of what he's hearing from voters.
"They'll talk in private; they won't talk in public, and this sort of climate of fear is what the PPC wants to eliminate by re-establishing the unfettered right to free speech in Canada."
Taylor has also been pounding the pavement, noting that, over a 10-day span, he had been on the Sunshine Coast, a seniors' centre in West Vancouver, Mount Currie and Pemberton for the Slow Food Cycle, Bowen Island for Bowfest and Squamish for KiteClash 2019.
"So lots of getting around, that's for sure, but it's all good. It's been interesting," he said.
"Affordability continues to be an issue in I would say maybe two-thirds of the responses, depending on who I'm talking to and where ... this whole notion of growing the middle class is somewhat dubious in the kind of comments I'm getting back."
With the affordability discussion comes talk of housing availability, food prices and the cost of transportation, Taylor said, adding that he's also hearing disappointment with the Liberal government for its failure to enact proportional representation and its purchase of the Trans Mountain Pipeline.
"The climate change issue is big across the board, too," he said. "The expectation is, I think, that government should do more, move further, faster on that, and I think that we're penetrating in terms of interest, and in terms of some of the things that we've suggested on that count, too. "
What does Taylor like about the Green Party's climate plan?
"Well first of all, we have one," he said.
"To me, the most obvious [move] is stop subsidizing gas and oil to the tune of $3.5 billion a year, and the marketplace might take care of the rest if that began to happen."
On the flipside of that particular policy proposal, the PPC is offering the exact opposite: abolishing subsidies for green technology to allow private players to develop alternatives.
"I do care for the Green Party a little bit, but I think they're probably going to shoot themselves in the foot over this carbon dioxide matter. There's two sides to the story that people aren't hearing, and there's really no emergency," Bebb said.
But like Bebb, Taylor said he's ready for the debate.
"He said, 'It's nothing personal,' or something to the effect, 'but I'm going to be attacking your positions,'" he recalled of their friendly encounter on Bowen Island.
"And I told him to fill his boots."
As we get closer to the Oct. 21 federal election, Pique is starting to plot out its local coverage of the campaign—and we want to hear from you about the issues you'd like to see covered locally.
What are the burning questions you'd like to see answered by our local candidates? What are the issues you'd like to see covered in our riding?
Email reporter Braden Dupuis at email@example.com.
*Editor's Note: Two days after Pique's Aug. 27 press deadline, the Liberals named Patrick Weiler, environmental lawyer and international development professional, as the riding's candidate.
"I have been knocking on doors here in West Vancouver-Sunshine Coast-Sea to Sky Country and listening to the issues that matter most to our community," he said in a release. "I am honoured to have earned the trust of local Liberals in our riding and look forward to working with Justin Trudeau and the Liberal team to create good new jobs, strengthen our middle class and continue to develop and implement strategies to address climate change."
Check back with Pique tomorrow for more on Weiler's campaign.