It was the first time I ever remember inviting a political candidate to meet me at a restaurant and having to phone ahead to ask if the establishment is licenced for all ages.
But, Justin Kulik as a federal candidate is a tad abnormal. He’s still in his teens, has an “N” on the back of his vehicle and attends school full-time at UBC-Okanagan.
If Kulik is elected as the MP for Kelowna-Lake Country on Oct. 21, he will become the youngest member of Parliament in Canadian history.
He picked the right riding. Kelowna once elected Kevin Craig — who was still in his teens — to city council.
The NDP is running three 18-year-olds in the federal election — the others are in Richmond and Ottawa.
To have his name on the ballot, he had to win a nomination race.
Even though he’s balancing an almost full schedule in what’s his freshman year at UBCO (he took one credit in advance), the experience thus far has been positive.
Fellow candidates, he declares, have all treated him well. He’s happy with the response he’s getting at the doors. There have been four all-candidate forums thus far. He’s attended all of them.
Student by day, NDP candidate by night, taking up political causes is nothing new to him.
He famously launched an online petition to bar supermarkets from tossing unsold — but still good-to-eat produce, collecting an incredible 250,000 names.
It led to a meeting with a cabinet minister, which MP Stephen Fuhr sat in on. While in Ottawa, he met with MP Ruth Ellen Brosseau, who was working on a similar file in 2012.
“My family has relied on food banks in the past, but not for a long time. We have felt food insecurity — putting groceries on credit cards because that was the only way we could keep food on our table. When I saw 4 million Canadians are living on food insecurity, and 1.5 million are children, it’s close to my heart.”
“It’s just not rotten produce. It’s apples that have a bit of a bruise on them that people aren’t going to buy. It’s oddly-shaped potatoes that are still perfectly good to eat.”
Access B.C. was another project he’s supported, encouraging MLAs to provide free contraception across B.C.
As for the campaign itself, which on Tuesday eclipsed the halfway mark, it’s basically what he expected. There have been no surprises.
Other NDP candidates from the valley, as well as leader Jagmeet Singh, have been helpful — Richard Cannings, in particular.
“I don’t think anything can prepare anyone for how much work there is to running in a federal campaign. But, really, there’s nothing too, too surprising that’s happened.”
As for the process, he’s enjoying it.
“It’s great. I love connecting with people, I love hearing their concerns. Some candidates don’t enjoy door knocking — I love it, hearing the stories of people around you, having the opportunity to engage with people.”
He’s a longshot — something even he likely realizes — but he’s sincere and is taking the process seriously.
Whatever the outcome is on Oct. 21, he promises one thing.
“This will not be the last you’ve heard of Justin Kulik.”
James Miller is managing editor of The Kelowna Daily Courier and valley editor/director of content for Okanagan Newspaper Group. To contact the writer: email@example.com