Barry Gerding.

Column: Things we learned from 2022 civic election campaign

Barry Gerding weighs in on the Okanagan election

Some post-election thoughts in the aftermath of civic elections across the Central Okanagan on Oct. 15….

Playing the long game is not always a popular strategy in civic politics.

Opportunity arises with each election, and having patience for the right time to be a candidate often gives way to that elusive possibility of winning a seat at the council or school board table. And more often than not, those hopes are dashed.

But patience has proven to be a virtue for Kelowna’s new incoming mayor Tom Dyas along with one of his big supporters, newly elected city councillor Ron Cannan.

Back in 2018, Dyas saw an opportunity to put his name out there for mayor, creating friction in friendships and political relationships in the process, but was defeated soundly by then-incumbent Colin Basran.

There was a mood of disappointment at the small gathering of his supporters in a hotel ballroom that election night, Dyas having to be graceful in defeat, always a humbling experience, while Cannan was there looking a little lost, still in a bit of a funk over his previous federal election loss to Stephen Fuhr as MP for Kelowna-Lake Country riding.

But here we are four years later, and Dyas has won a significant victory at the ballot box against Basran, while Cannan returned to his civic politics roots and emerged as the top vote-getter among the city council candidates.

Some journeys, particularly with the in-the-moment opportunism of politics, take longer than you might hope but being able to arrive at your destination is perhaps that much sweeter.

***

The fascination of Kelowna civic voters with media personalities continues with the election of former Global Okanagan TV anchor Rick Webber to council.

He joins Mohini Singh, Maxine DeHart and Charlie Hodge who each have connections to the media world, as did our incumbent mayor Colin Basran.

So while local journalists have been hardened to be called every denigrating name you can think of either in person or behind the anonymity of social media, it doesn’t seem to disqualify you from getting elected to Kelowna City Council. Go figure.

***

Much has been said by pundits in the aftermath of this civic election cycle about how incumbent mayors took a thrashing at the polls across B.C. this time around, with West Kelowna mayor-elect Gord Milsom one of the few who went against that trend.

But given issues like housing affordability, crime enforcement on the street and in the courts, homeless and health care were at the top of what supposedly angered voters demanding a change, municipal councils can advocate for change on these issues but policy and funding responses fall largely under the auspices of the federal and provincial governments.

And that should have the provincial NDP thinking twice about a snap election call after John Horgan steps down as premier. We may have new faces at council tables around the province, but the anger and frustration among the electorate are not going to disappear anytime soon.

***

In a post-election interview, Tom Dyas credited his door-knocking campaign as giving him direct access to what people were upset about and placing himself in the forefront to address those issues if elected.

In the modern era of social media, that kind of old-style political campaigning was also endorsed by Peachland/Okanagan West elected trustee Lisa Guderyan.

Guderyan estimates between her and her campaign volunteers, they knocked on about 1,000 doors in her electoral area.

“For me, I did a lot of door knocking when helping out in political campaigns when I was younger, so to me even in this social media age it seemed a natural thing to do as part of the campaign process,” she shared.

“I also think Peachland is still a bit more of a traditional community as a lot of people appreciate a bit more of that human touch, not to hear what you stand for on social media but to hear it from you in person.

“I can’t recall having any negative interactions with anyone I talked to…I even brought my kids with me sometimes and people would actually want to talk with my kids more than me about what they thought of school…it helped open the door for positive conversations with people.”

To quote an old Bruce Springsteen song, we all need a little more personal interaction with others than perhaps we care to admit, as The Boss wrote in his hit song appropriately titled Human Touch:

“You might need something’ to hold on to,

When all the answers, they don’t amount to much

Somebody that you could just talk to

And a little of that human touch”

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BC Election 2022BC municipal electionOkanagan

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