Cowboy Country

Posted in BC Votes 2009 Campaign Bytes Posted by CBC News on April 18, 2009 04:40 PM |

Campaign BytesHeather RobinsonCampbell was clearly excited about going to cowboy country.

Gone was the standard uniform of a navy blue suit, tie and well-polished shoes … in its place, jeans and cowboy boots given to him by former Alberta Premier Ralph Klein. He brought his personal stills camera and kept asking everyone on the plane “are you excited to see the rodeo?”.

He may have been nervous. This was his first time going to NDP-held ridings in the Cariboo … won by a narrow margin in 2005. And as soon as our bus pulled into the Williams Lake Indoor Complex where the annual rodeo was being held … the clash of ideologies greeted us.

Liberals shouting: “Four More Years”. New Democrats shouting: “No More Years”. All trying to get in Campbell’s face. All trying to drown out the other. I saw a bit of shoving.

This is tough territory … hard hit by the forestry crisis … people who told me they are tired of promises from both parties … they want action.

Once inside, Campbell joined the country-gospel band by clapping and a bit of foot-stomping … and then started shaking hands with people in the stands. Their reaction was … tepid, I would say. Almost bothered that he and the media cameras were in the way of the calf-tying and bull-riding they had come to watch at the annual event.

When I asked the locals about their reality in the Cariboo, one after another told me they had come back home to catch the annual rodeo … but were spending months on end working up north in the oil patch.

That work in the mills dried up.

That the towns have run out of hope.

That parents have come to accept that their children will not continue the generations of work in forestry.

That they don’t know if anything can change it... even a party leader in cowboy boots and jeans, promising to make things better if elected.

Heather Robinson
Provincial Affairs Reporter, CBC News Vancouver