At the start of this election the conventional wisdom had it that Kamloops-Thompson-Cariboo would be a fight between two political heavyweights, the Conservative incumbent Cathy McLeod and Terry Lake for the Liberals.
As the former mayor of Kamloops and one of our MLAs it was believed that Lake had the name recognition to challenge McLeod. Two visits from Prime Minister Trudeau gave him a further boost. “This is definitely a two-person race” was how Mel Rothenburger summed it up in an interview back in August.
Things look very different now. Terry Lake’s campaign never caught fire. His stated rationale for running – to address climate change – was undermined by Liberal support for LNG and the TMX pipeline.
Historically, Liberal support has been lacking in this riding. In 2015 Trudeau’s popularity gave Steve Powrie a late boost to a close third place. This time around Trudeau has abandoned sunny ways to wage an ugly, uninspiring campaign of attrition against the Conservatives.
Trudeau’s various scandals have turned him into a big drag on Lake. Lake also failed to capitalize on the implosion of the local NDP, probably because during his career as an MLA he spent so much time antagonizing local progressives. At two recent all candidates forums the crowds were notably hostile to him.
That’s where Iain Currie comes in. Currie is a strong candidate, leaning on his record as a crown prosecutor. He’s kept up a rigorous schedule of door knocking and shown up everywhere. Unlike Lake, he’s gotten a big boost from the NDP’s troubles.
Nancy Bepple, a former candidate in the provincial wing of the party, has been out canvassing for Iain. So have many other life long NDP supporters. This is significant as the NDP came very close to beating McLeod in 2015.
The Greens have never had a campaign office before or raised anywhere near the $80,000 needed to run a serious campaign in this riding. This time they do. They have an office, they have ads on tv, the radio, and in the newspaper. Their yard signs are everywhere.
Currie also has a great social media team cranking out content and is the only candidate to be reaching out to youth on instagram. After Trudeau’s visit Lake’s facebook page had 100 more ‘likes’ than Currie’s page. Since then Currie made up the difference and now leads Lake by 100 ‘likes’. Hardly a scientific measure but a good indication of momentum.
At those same debates where Lake struggled to win people over the crowds were clearly receptive to Currie. After the most recent forum Rothenburger called for a further debate between the top contenders: McLeod, Lake, and Currie. What was once a two-person race is now a three-person race.
Currie is the underdog but has the momentum. Is there enough time to catch McLeod before Oct. 21? Who knows! Get out and vote and then grab some popcorn because just like in 2015 we’re in for another close election.