British Columbia

The Rookies: 3 first-time candidates hit campaign trail

Between fundraising, canvassing and getting a campaign office set up, getting elected is hard work. Three first-time candidates running in B.C.'s provincial election show us what they've been doing to get their campaigns off on the right foot.

What does it take to start a political campaign? 3 first-time candidates show us what they're up to

Left to right: Trang Nguyen, Morgane Oger and Jonina Campbell are first-time candidates and will seek office in the 2017 B.C. provincial election. (Trang Nguyen/CBC/Vivian Luk)

The official start of B.C.'s 2017 election season hasn't officially started yet, but candidates have already hit the ground running.

That includes candidates like New Westminster Green Party candidate Jonina Campbell, Vancouver-Kingsway Liberal Party candidate Trang Nguyen and Vancouver-False Creek NDP candidate Morgane Oger, who are the subjects of On The Coast's series, The Rookies.

As On The Coast's Vivian Luk spoke with the first-time candidates as they get down to the business of campaigning.

Unorthodox fundraising

Fundraising is important for any political campaign, but for the B.C. Green Party, things are a little different.

Unlike the B.C. Liberals and the NDP, the Greens do not accept corporate or union donations.

They turn to things like dinner fundraisers and silent auctions, even though it's a lot of work, as New Westminster candidate Jonina Campbell has learned.

On a Saturday night at the River Market in New Westminster, dozens of guests came to a fundraiser for dinner, drinks, and live music.

"Asking people to donate is not as awkward as asking people to donate cash, which is even more, or get them to buy tickets for fundraiser," said Campbell's campaign manager Naomi Perks.

Jonina Campbell (centre) meets potential donors at a fundraiser. (Vivian Luk/CBC)

"It's very uncomfortable … all of that is tricky. And asking people to do more than what they want to do is even trickier."

Campbell's staff called the fundraiser a success, though.

Opening an office

It's opening day at Vancouver-Kingsway Liberal Party candidate Trang Nguyen's campaign office. The walls are covered with campaign posters and there's food and cake to celebrate.

It took weeks to get the office ready. It isn't perfect, and it's also technically just outside the Vancouver-Kingsway riding to cut down on rent.

"Right now, I'm trying to run an efficient campaign, meaning that the money we're going to raise, we're going to use that towards the campaign," she said. "I'm very honoured with the donors giving their faith and their confidence in me when I write that cheque. I take that seriously, I want to spend their money wisely."

Nguyen says setting up the campaign office has been very time-consuming. That means the single mom has been spending less and less time with her children, Ryan and Belinda.

Trang Nguyen (left) poses for a photo with her kids Belinda and Ryan in her campaign office. (Vivian Luk/CBC)

The kids say they understand, and they're both very supportive of their mom.

But even Ryan has some reservations about his mom's chances.

"It's a small probability. I don't know ... 30 per cent?" he said. "'Cause she's [against] Adrian Dix. He won last time, right? So he probably will win again."

Taking the message door-to-door

Canvassing door-to-door is serious business, but Vancouver-False Creek NDP candidate Morgane Oger's team wants volunteers to make it fun as well.

"If people answer the door to someone looking not like you're having best time, you're not really representing Morgane and the NDP very well," an organizer said at a pre-canvassing meeting at Kits Point.

But beyond that, they do have some tricks up their sleeves to hopefully make their efforts more successful.

Watch your body language. Take note of your surroundings. Bash the opponent whenever you can.

But perhaps most important of all: get people to open up and then empathize. Establish some kind of personal connection, and then plug your campaign somehow.

Morgane Oger, second from left, meets with volunteers for a day of door knocking. (Vivian Luk/CBC)

But it doesn't always work. One person Oger encountered was very opposed to the NDP because she feels they are against resource development.

"That's someone who's not going to vote for us," Oger said. "So I did a pitch and then left her alone.

"If people were marking people right now, she'd be put on the list of people who are very [polite] but unlikely."

In the lead-up to the 2017 B.C. election, On The Coast will get to know a first-time candidate from each of the Green, Liberal and New Democratic parties for a series called The Rookies

To hear the interview with Jonina Campbell, click the audio labelled: The Rookies: Green Party's Jonina Campbell on fundraising

To hear the interview with Trang Nguyen, click the audio labelled: The Rookies: Liberal Party's Trang Nguyen on setting up a campaign office

To hear the interview with Morgane Oger click the audio labelled: The Rookies: New Democratic Party's Morgane Oger on canvassing