Canadians will be going to the polls on Sept. 20 for a federal election, less than two years after the last vote.
But so far in the Souris-Moose Mountain constituency, there is just one candidate.
Governor General Mary Simon granted Justin Trudeau’s request to have Parliament dissolved Sunday, and for the election campaign begin. Since that time, the party leaders and candidates have been out, articulating their platforms.
Robert Kitchen of the Conservative Party of Canada, who has been the member of Parliament for Souris-Moose Mountain since 2015, said he was ready for the call. It came after months of speculation as to when an election might occur.
As of Monday evening, Kitchen was the only candidate listed on a party website for Souris-Moose Mountain. When he was re-elected in 2019, he defeated candidates from the New Democratic Party (Ashlee Hicks), the Liberal Party (Javin Ames-Sinclair), the People’s Party of Canada (Philip Zajac), the Green Party of Canada (Judy Mergel) and the Canadian Nationalist Party (Travis Patron).
In the 2019 election, Kitchen received more than 84 per cent of the vote.
Kitchen noted that the Tories had been trying to topple the Liberal minority government with a confidence motion since last fall. He was ready for the election call when it did come.
“We’ve been preparing since that point for an election,” said Kitchen.
Kitchen said Trudeau has been watching the polls so that he could justify calling an election.
“I thought we actually might have had one in the spring with the issue of the budget. Part of me knew that the Greens and the Bloc (Quebecois) would support him, and the NDP would support him, but I was preparing (for an election) at that point in time,” said Kitchen.
He already has a campaign team in place and a campaign office selected in Scotsburn Square in Estevan.
On a national front, Kitchen believes the Conservatives can defeat the Liberals in an election campaign. And he believes Erin O’Toole, who Kitchen supported in O’Toole’s two bids for the Tory leadership, is the right person to be prime minister.
“People need to get to know him; that obviously has to happen. The pandemic has prevented a lot of that from happening,” Kitchen said.
It’s also important for people to take a look at the economy, Kitchen said, and consider things that need to be done.
“We need a recovery plan with what’s happened, and we need to get the economy back going. And those are the steps we want to do. We want to secure jobs. During this pandemic, we’ve lost a lot of jobs.”
The Tories would also introduce new anti-corruptions laws to create more accountability and would place a greater emphasis on treatment of mental health issues.
Campaigning during a pandemic will certainly be a unique experience. It’s the first time he has experienced something like this, so he expects he will be very respectful of what people’s wishes.
“If people wish to have us in masks, then we will do so. And on other issues on those lines, we will be respectful. That part will be a little bit challenging, but you learn from those experiences,” he said.
He expects to attend events in the communities in the next five weeks. Since the last of the public health restrictions were lifted last month, he has been out in the constituency, attending events and greeting people.
“I need to hear from the constituents. I’ve believed that from Day 1, since I became the MP, is (the importance of) hearing from everybody.”
He hopes to be able to visit every community in the vast constituency during the election campaign. Souris-Moose Mountain extends as far northeast as Rocanville, where there are issues related to potash, to Coronach in the southwest, which has challenges connected to the future of the Poplar River Power Station, a coal-fired generating station.
Then there are issues that Estevan is facing with the future of coal power and the oil industry.
Grain farmers and cattle ranchers are also facing challenging times.
“They’re dealing with drought issues in many parts of this riding as well, and they’re dealing with crop issues, and it’s harvest time.”
Kitchen said he is looking forward to any debates that occur during the campaign. In 2019, there were candidates’ forums in Estevan, Weyburn and Moosomin. The Estevan event was hosted by the Estevan Chamber of Commerce.
When Parliament was dissolved, the Liberals had 155 seats, 15 short of the 170 they needed to have a majority government. The Conservatives, with 119, were the official opposition.
The Bloc Quebecois had 32, the New Democratic Party sat at 24 and the Green Party had two.
The Mercury will have coverage throughout the election campaign.