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Candidates campaign hard as e-day nears

New Westminster Voters Have A Wide Selection Of Choices Saturday

Candidates vying for seats on New Westminster city council are hoping to connect with as many voters as possible in the final days of the 2011 civic election campaign.

While many candidates are doing door knocking, Burma shaves and meetandgreets in the homestretch, others still have day jobs to fill their days. Four candidates are running for mayor and 17 candidates are aiming for the six seats on city council.

"I'm going to keep doing what I'm doing," said incumbent mayor Wayne Wright about meeting people at malls, doors and his campaign office. "I'm a positive guy. I have to rely on what I have done, where we have gone and the vision we have for the city. I don't have any other agenda. It seems to be working."

Mayoral candidate James Crosty will continue touring the city in his brother's motor home.

"We are continuing our bus tour around the city. We will be answering phone calls. We have people coming into the office. Money is still coming in," he said. "I have been focused on issues, issues, issues and solutions."

Crosty has worked on election campaigns for others in the past, but this is his first time as a candidate.

"I am pretty excited," he said. "Win, lose or draw, I have had a great campaign. We are all proud of it."

Vance McFadyen has enjoyed the experience of running a mayoralty campaign.

"I am going to be walking around and talking to people on the street, at the malls. All my brochures are out. I distributed 10,000 by hand," he said. "I feel very good, positive. I have received good, positive feedback."

While he's trying to garner as much support for himself, Wright is also keeping an eye on the council contest.

"I think the council race will be very interesting. There's some experience there," he said about candidates vying for council who aren't currently elected. "You have a heck of a choice. I will be watching it closely."

Chuck Puchmayr, a former city councillor and MLA, erected the last of his 115 election signs on Wednesday, having held back a few signs for a final push to the finish line. While some candidates are feeling the wear and tear of the campaign, Puchmayr, who underwent a life-saving liver transplant in January 2009, said he hasn't had this much energy in 10 years.

"I am feeling great," he said. "I am really excited about the direction we think we are heading. We are looking good, but I don't want to jinx myself."

Incumbent councillor Bill Harper said he will focus on what he's been doing for the past six weeks: door knocking.

"We started on Oct. 6. The average you can do is 50 a night. I would suspect it is in the 700 range," said Harper, who said about 90 per cent of the people say they're happy with how things are going in the city. "We are doing our due diligence to make sure people know who we are, we have accomplished a lot."

Susan Wandell will spend the final days of the campaign meeting folks at the SkyTrain stations and malls, and door knocking. A Voice New Westminster candidate, she said she gets the sense there's been some backlash to endorsements from politicians for labour candidates.

"People have been very receptive," she said. "When the MLA and MPs put their support out there, it's got people asking me, 'which side are you with?' I don't think it was a great thing to do."

Wandell will do her best to encourage people to get out to vote, having seen some

people who supported Helen Sparkes as mayor, but didn't get out to vote in 2002, when she lost to Wayne Wright by a mere 18 votes.

Voice New Westminster candidates planned to get together to do a final Burma shave for the 2011 campaign. Wandell, a founding director with Voice New Westminster, has noticed there's more recognition of the slate.

"I notice we haven't had a lot of attacks," she said. "There is a labour group. This is a grassroots group. There is nothing wrong with that."

Calvin Donnelly has enjoyed the campaign and appreciated the work of many volunteers who are working to help him get reelected to city council.

"We have done everything we can do. I keep handing out the brochures and talking to the people," he said. "It gets really busy in the last day or two. You'd like to do more but you run out of time."

Donnelly said he's grateful he has the flexibility to campaign and feels sorry for those who don't have any extra time. In addition to meeting with voters and posting signs, he said candidates are being asked to complete an unprecedented number of questionnaires from many groups - inside and outside the city.

Incumbent councillor Bob Osterman said he hasn't been able to take any time off for the election, having taken time off to deal with a family health situation earlier in the year. He's been doing meet-and-greets when possible and has answered more than 10 questionnaires on issues ranging from arts and culture to the environment.

"This has been a good election," Osterman said. "I am completely independent. I am not getting pushed or pulled in any direction. We have been a council of seven people. We have talked about our successes. We have had great successes as a city."

While he's served on city council for 15 years, Osterman admits he could be "at risk" of losing his seat.

"I just hope I get in," he said. "We'll see where it goes."

Incumbent councillor Betty McIntosh has been focusing on "community walks" to meet voters and answer their questions.

"I think there could be some change," she said about council. "I think we need a balance too."

McIntosh doesn't believe anyone has the mayor's race sealed up either. While Wright and Crosty seem to be the frontrunners, she doesn't think McFadyen should be ruled out as a contender.

"I have seen him with a team of people going door to door. I have seen him with lawn signs on places that have never had signs before," she said. "He is a wild-card."

Jaimie McEvoy, who was elected to council in 2008, is "door knocking like crazy" in the final days of the campaign.

"It's definitely different being an incumbent. There is a lot more recognition out there," he said about campaigning. "A lot more people know who I am. A lot of people appreciate that an elected official has come to their door. The message I am hearing is most people are happy with the direction we are going."

First-time council candidate David Noshad said no one knew who he was at the start of the campaign, but everyone he meets while campaigning now recognizes him. He'll be doing "nonstop" door knocking until election day.

"I am nervous," he said. "It's like a final test. You never know what the result is."

Incumbent councillor Jonathan Cote plans to focus on door knocking and sign waving in the final stretch.

"Win or lose, I am proud of the campaign I have been able to run," he said.

"I have talked to a lot of people - it will be close to 3,000 doors by the end of it."

While he's had good feedback, Cote said "any-thing can happen in an election" and you can't take anything for granted.

That uncertainty provides the motivation to keep campaigning as long as possible.

Voice New Westminster candidate Gavin Palmer had to work the three final days of the campaign, but planned to fit some door knocking and sign waving into his schedule.

"It is what it is. I don't think you are going to change anybody's opinion in the last two or three days," he said.

"Most people have made up their minds."

Paul Mulangu started the election campaign on a hunger strike and wrapped it up by meeting and greeting people in the city.

"It's been a very good experience. I think I am going to win," he said. "I learned a lot about the community. New Westminster is a very good, interesting community."

Gerry Liu, a rookie candidate for council, said the campaign has been a huge learning curve and he's better equipped to run in the 2014 election if he's not successful this year.

"Win or lose, I'm going for another run," he said. "I am ready to step up to the challenge. I'm going to get an entourage."

Liu said the all-candidates meetings and questionnaires have given him a greater understanding of the issues.

Watching how other candidates run their campaigns has increased his awareness of the need to get a volunteer team in place to help with posting signs and other campaign activities.


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