It’s kind of interesting and weird that the NDP is holding a leadership debate in Kelowna this evening with a social justice focus. This isn’t exactly NDP territory, nor is it really an activist hotbed.
The Okanagan is still quite a conservative region. The BC Liberals have swept the three Kelowna seats with more than 50 per cent of the vote every election since 1996. Before that, this was a Social Credit hotbed.
But Kelowna does have a small band of dedicated NDPers who hold the party’s three constituency associations together. They’re so dedicated that when popular Nelson-Creston MLA Corky Evans announced his retirement before the 2009 provincial election, he made a point of coming here to say goodbye on the evening the constituency associations held a joint nomination meeting.
I covered the meeting for the Capital News and Evans told me he liked the party members here because they were “true believers.”
Because the party has only the a long shot chance of winning a seat here, the constituency associations consist only of those who passionately believe in the party’s vision for a more just, less cutthroat society. NDP members in Kelowna are unlikely to advocate compromising that vision in order to grab power.
In that way, I guess bringing the social justice debate to Kelowna makes some sense.
The five leadership candidates will likely get a warn welcome from a relatively small crowd, but one that is engaged, cares deeply about the issues being debated.
And by making Kelowna the centre of the NDP universe, if just for a moment, the party is letting its members here now that they are appreciated and respected for their efforts in the face of daunting odds.