BC Liberals candidate Tom Shypitka (left) and NDP candidate Wayne Stetski (right) are running for Kootenay East in the 2020 BC election. (Scott Tibballs / The Free Press)

NDP, BC Liberal Candidates tour through Elk Valley

Shypitka and Stetski were in Fernie, Sparwood and Elkford to get their election pitches across to voters today

The NDP and BC Liberal candidates hit the ground in the Elk Valley today and yesterday to speak to locals in Elkford, Sparwood and Fernie.

BC Liberals candidate Shypitka, who spent Wednesday in Elkford and Sparwood and took time to speak to folks in Fernie on Thursday said his main goal on his visit was to see how businesses were doing with the pandemic, and get a “temperature check” on how they were faring.

“I’ve been encouraged to hear some of the reports that we’re weathering the storm. I think its largely because of the diversity that the Elk Valley has developed over the years. … Fernie and the Elk Valley has really branched out into tourism and diversified.

“I was expecting a lot more stories of doom and gloom, and there is certainly those that are not making ends meet during this troubling time, but there’s many that are doing well, and some that are actually doing better than ever.”

The NDP’s Wayne Stetski visited Fernie and Sparwood on Thursday, telling The Free Press that voters had been talking to him about COVID-19 and the need to keep everyone safe – especially in schools.

“We have to monitor whats happening in classrooms quite closely.”

Both candidates touched on the Elk Valley’s relationship with the land and wildlife, with Stetski saying voters were concerned about how to increase wildlife numbers, and Shypitka talking about land access.

Stetski said that “hunting and fishing is who we are, and that will always be a priority for the people in the Elk Valley and Cranbrook,” with Shypitka saying the same for folks up and around Elkford, where he said locals were concerned about land access so they could live the lifestyle they wanted.

‘They’re seeing a lot of land closures that are prohibiting them from doing what they like to do,” he said, explaining that he had been told there were example of “arbitrary and” unexplained land closures in the area.

“From what I understand its all localized decision making, and that’s unfortunate because we’ve got some good people working in our local offices, but they really have to do the diligence that is required to really communicate with the stakeholders of the land.,” he said.

Finally, both candidates touched on the difficulties and challenges of campaigning during a pandemic.

“Normally I’d be door-knocking,” said Shypitka, “but I didn’t want to be insensitive to anyone’s beliefs. We’ve changed our way of doing campaigning this year.”

Stetski said that the campaign was “weird”.

“It’s very different. Normally you do a lot of personal contact, but under COVID, you really don’t want to have face-to-face interactions that could negatively impact either you or the people that you’re with.”

Shypitka said his way around the challenges were to have meetings out in the open and speak to as many locals as possible that way, while Stetski said his campaign would be focusing on social media and getting his message out there that way.

Both Shypitka and Stetski along with BC Greens candidate, and Fernie local Kerri Wall will be taking part in an all-candidate forum for the Elk Valley on October 15.

READ MORE: Fernie Chamber to host all-candidates forum

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