With barely a year to go before the next provincial election – May 9, 2017 to be exact – political party strategists are busy determining what the issues are and how to best present their platforms.
In the Skeena riding, which encompasses Terrace, Kitimat, the Nass Valley and surrounding area, there is an additional consideration – the decision by three-term NDP MLA Robin Austin to retire from politics.
Austin has served his party well, first by defeating incumbent Liberal Roger Harris in 2005 and then facing down Liberal challengers in 2009 and in 2013, the latter election featuring a strong Liberal candidate in Carol Leclerc, the current mayor of Terrace.
That means a new face for the NDP as well as for the Liberals with each candidate, when they are eventually chosen, needing to establish visible profiles. As such it’s pretty much a level playing field for both hopefuls and for any other candidates from other parties who might surface.
The challenge for each candidate will be whether they are perceived as strong independent voices to appeal to the sometimes contrary nature of the northern B.C. voter or whether they will be seen as mere figureheads for whatever issues and policies their respective provincial campaign machines may dictate.
In this regard, Skeena voters would be better served by the former rather than the latter.