Riding the Red Wave in the 2015 federal election, Liberal Tracy Calogheros came with five points of winning the Cariboo-Prince George riding.
She’s hoping to pick up those five points in 2019 and even though the federal race is tighter than ever, Calogheros is confident local voters are ready to break the reign of Conservative MPs.
“I think my chances are better than ever,” she said at her campaign office opening Saturday. “More than 60 per cent of this riding didn’t vote Conservative last time. That is not only historic for this area, but it gives us a real opportunity to send a progressive voice to Ottawa. That’s a lot of people who didn’t want to vote Conservative. I think we can consolidate that vote. I think that we can offer people that progressive voice.”
Consolidating that vote, however, will likely mean pulling votes from the NDP and the Greens.
“People need to focused on the individual human being that they sending to represent them in Ottawa,” she said. “It’s less about the button on the lapel than it is about who that person is, how vested they are in the community and what their experience is. I have spent a career building disparate around decision-making tables in order to build community. I can continue to do that here. That’s a talent and skill that would serve the entire country.”
She says the state of the forest industry in B.C. is one of the main issues she will be focusing on during the campaign.
“The discussions around the shut downs and the curtailments in the forest industry has been top of mind for everyone,” she said, acknowledging that, for the most part, it is a provincial issue.
“There is an opportunity for the federal government to get involved with retraining, perhaps some bridging for early retirements, and generally trying to ensure that we retain a strong economy here,” she said. “Really it’s around funding innovations is where the federal government can truly help us.”
That, she says, is a fundamental part of actually diversifying the economy.
“One of the things that I’ve always felt is that we do things very differently here in north central British Columbia,” she said. “We have different opportunities that you don’t get in urban centres and we have a more collegial and collaborative approach. My commitment is to take that approach and people’s opinions, our voice here, to Ottawa.”
She doesn’t see the SNC Lavalin scandal as much of an issue here in Cariboo-Prince George.
“Any issue can play a factor in the election, but I think people are more concerned about jobs, the environment, what’s going to happen down the road,” she said. “SNC Lavalin was one of those things that happened behind closed doors and will be sorted out between the individuals that were involved. It’s not what people are talking about when I’m knocking on doors.”
An issue that may have some play here, although somewhat of a non-issue in B.C., is the federal carbon tax. British Columbia has had a carbon tax for years and, Calogheros points out, has also had the strongest economy in the country for much of that time.
“There’s plenty of evidence out there that by increasing the price of something, it causes people to really think twice when making those purchases, so it will drive emissions down,” she said. “It has driven emissions down.”
The Liberal approach with the carbon tax is designed to be revenue neutral with investments in clean technology, she said.
“I see it as a good thing,” she said. “B.C. is the perfect test area and the perfect example of why and how it works.”
Calogheros said coming from a rural area, rather than an urban one, is also a plus going to Ottawa and is exactly what the nation’s capital needs more of.
“The partisanship that is currently tearing apart the world is getting in the way in good government, it’s getting in the way of progress and I think that rural Canada does better than urban Canada and we can really offer advice and approaches that maybe they’re not seeing.”
While Liberal leader Justin Trudeau skipped the first candidates debate, Calogheros is looking forward to them. She participated in 17 debates in 2015 and will continue that attendance record this time around.
“I think that they’re really important place for people to get to know candidates and make an informed choice,” she said.
Why should Cariboo-Prince George constituents vote for Calogheros?
“I believe in working with people of every political stripe because I don’t believe that any single party has cornered the market on good answers,” she said. “I think there’s good ideas in every single party out there, so if we’re not all talking to each other, and sitting in echo chambers, you don’t get good governance.”
While the campaign, at least federally, expected to be a nasty one, Calogheros says it’s time for good debate without the nastiness.
“A lot of what I’m hearing from people is they’re tired of the ugly, they’re tired of the fights, of the name-calling, just the comment feed on a lot of things,” she said. “People are sick to death of people being mean to each other. They just want people to work together and have public discourse that is civil. Canadians are not nasty people. We are the kind of country that can work together.”