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Campaigning in B.C. amid COVID-19 pandemic will look very different: experts

Last Updated Sep 21, 2020 at 9:14 pm PDT

Summary

With a fall election ahead, campaigning will look different amid the COVID-19 pandemic

Text and online ads could be some of the heightened means for reaching potential voters

The election will be held Oct. 24

VANCOUVER (NEWS 1130) — There will be no kissing babies or shaking hands. With a provincial election on the way, B.C. candidates’ campaigns will look like nothing we’ve ever seen before.

British Columbians will be heading to the polls Oct. 24, after Premier John Horgan requested a fall election Monday.

“You know, the rule was, we had to knock on every door three times, meet every voter, and persuade them at the doorstep,” says Jim Rutkowski, senior associate at counsel public affairs. “Then on election day, you’d knock on their door a fourth time and get them to the polls.”

He says he’s curious and looking forward to a very different campaign this year.

“We’re not going to see the kind of political theatre we would normally see on the streets, in terms of campaign events and rallies,” Rutkowski says. “Certainly won’t see people knocking on our doors, but we will see a lot of that move into the comfort of our homes and using the kind of technologies that are available to us.”

RELATED: Elections BC should brace for surge in mail-in, advance voting amid pandemic: professor

Text and online ads could be some of the heightened means for reaching potential voters.

But these methods cost money and some experts believe it could put certain parties at a disadvantage.

“A party like the NDP, they may be at a bit of an advantage here compared with the, say, the Green Party, which is obviously drawing at a much more limited resource base, or the Liberals, which has not had quite as much success fundraising in recent years,” says SFU political scientist Stewart Prest.

He adds this could have been part of the reason the NDP called the election.

Meanwhile, concerns were raised as to how seniors, who may not have access to online platforms, will cast their votes.

RELATED: B.C. election amid COVID-19 pandemic ‘unnecessary’, expert says

“Information about candidates in local constituencies will be available through a variety of platforms, not just the internet. The good news is, many seniors have landlines,” Horgan said Monday during a press conference. “Being able to contact those who are not adept at the internet will be the easiest part, quite frankly.”

Rutkowski thinks reporters could have less access to candidates because in-person question periods have been replaced with questions being asked over the phone.

“I think it’s unfortunate, but it may be one of the things that continue to change and we need to guard against.”

Because of the pandemic, Elections BC has been making preparations for months, to ensure voting can be done safely. Voters will be able to use mail-in and advanced polling options more this year than in the past to cast ballots.