The Orange Wave caught everyone by surprise last election, even local supporters of the New Democratic Party.
They had headed into the 2011 campaign with little optimism, not much in the way of financial resources, and few active members willing to doorknock.
After the votes were counted they were as amazed as anyone the NDP had surged to Official Opposition status, gaining almost 31 per cent of the national popular vote, 12 per cent more than in 2008.
Still energized by that unprecedented electoral showing, local New Democrats were eager to get involved with this year's campaign.
“The growth in the local organization has been exponential,” Norah Bowman, a college professor who is the party's candidate in Kelowna-Lake Country, said Wednesday.
“It's nothing like we saw with the previous campaign,” she said. “We're getting more than 100 people out to events. We run out of chairs and people are spilling into the hallways.”
Although she's been door-knocking since April, Bowman is actually on holiday during the first official week of the campaign. “It's the one break I'd planned this year, and it turned out to be just after the election was called,” Bowman said with a laugh from Toronto.
When she returns Saturday she'll resume her door-to-door canvassing. On her rounds so far, she says many voters are eager to see a new government in Ottawa: “Over and over it comes up, people saying, 'I just can't vote for Harper again. I'm ready for change'.”
Three aspects of the NDP platform that Bowman says most resonate with Kelowna-area voters are government-led measures to boost the economy, more money for health care, and tighter environmental regulations.
“A lot of people in the Okanagan are working in precarious jobs, or have to have two jobs just to make ends meet,” Bowman says. Her own brother and brother-in-law live here, but work in Alberta.
Specific NDP proposals that would boost the economy, Bowman says, are cutting the small business tax rate from 11 per cent to nine per cent, offering employers financial incentives to hire new staff, and reducing or banning the export of raw logs from BC to create more valued-added jobs like sawmilling in the forestry sector.
On the environment, Bowman says she encounters many people who don't like the Harper government's moves to limit the ability of federally-funded scientists to speak out on climate change.
“People know climate change is real, and they want a federal government that takes leadership on this issue,” Bowman says. “And under Harper, a lot of the environmental assessment processes that used to be required for big projects have been gutted.”
Bowman grew up on a farm near 100 Mile House. Her parents didn't have stable jobs, and were out of work for a total of 10 years. She started college at 27, earned a BA from Okanagan College and a doctorate from the University of Alberta.
She is a professor of English Literature and Gender and Women's Studies at Okanagan College, and has taken a particular interest in eco-criticism, the study of literature related to the environment. She has a seven-year-old son.
On her Okanagan College faculty website, Bowman writes: “I support creative resistance collectives anywhere, and hope to see a world with more peaceable, collective, relations and less neo-liberal exploitation!'