Jack Knox: Tofino’s slow clocks make long campaign even longer

Jack Knox mugshot genericThe clocks are slow in Tofino this week. For real. Since Monday, they’ve been losing up to 15 minutes a day.

People have been late for work. One guy phoned another at what he thought was 9 p.m. but was really 9:45. Woke him up. Ticked him off.

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It has something to do with switching electricity sources while B.C. Hydro upgrades the power supply to the west coast of Vancouver Island.

Having been isolated from the giant western North American power grid (“islanded” is the term Hydro uses, and gosh, even they think it’s funny in this context), Tofino is now getting its power solely from Port Alberni’s Ash generating station.

And since electricity from Ash comes in at a slightly lower frequency than the 60 hertz to which digital clocks are calibrated (fair warning: this explanation is being filtered through a writer whose grasp of science is roughly equal to that of the cargo cults of Vanuatu) Tofino Time is actually, physically slowing.

Which, of course, means they must now endure a federal election campaign of 84 days, six more than the rest of us.

“Good God, I don’t know if I can bear it,” Mayor Josie Osborne says when presented with that notion on Friday.

Though, she points out, Tofino has been relatively campaign-free so far. The municipality has a bylaw that bars the erection of lawn signs until 30 days before the vote. Also, with politicians focusing on the biggest blocs of voters — older, urban Canadians — Tofino isn’t exactly in the middle of the radar screen.

“Our median age is 34,” Osborne notes. The town has just 2,000 full-time residents, including a bunch of transient workers who might have trouble coming up with the necessary ID under the new voting rules. “We’re not going to make or break the election.”

Still, nobody can escape this interminable campaign. We are now 48 days into a 78-day slog (to repeat: the entire Falklands War, from Argentinean invasion to British victory, only lasted 74) that won’t end until Oct. 19, a month from today. This election, more than twice as long as usual, has dragged on so long that many referred to Thursday’s Globe and Mail (Male?) event as the first televised leaders debate, forgetting the one staged by Maclean’s way back on Aug. 6, shortly after the end of the Boer War. And no, the Canadian contest hasn’t had the entertainment value of Donald Trump-Kardashian and the U.S. Republican race.

Not every candidate leaps into campaign mode right away. Some, little more than cannon fodder in ridings they have no hope of winning, don’t exactly hurl themselves into the fray. (In 2011, Ruth Ellen Brosseau famously spent three days in Las Vegas celebrating her 27th birthday, and not a single day campaigning in the Berthier-Maskinongé riding in which she was the NDP’s candidate, before being swept to victory in the Orange Wave that washed over Quebec.)

But serious candidates in tight races have been going full tilt. In the Victoria riding that New Democrat Murray Rankin won in a 2012 byelection, beating the Greens’ Donald Galloway 14,507-13,389, both those parties are running hard.

“We’ve been going since January,” says Sonia Théroux, the co-manager of Green candidate Jo-Ann Roberts’ campaign. It’s a minimum of six-day weeks and 12-hour days. The Greens have recruited and trained 230 volunteers, have knocked on the doors of more than half the households in the riding so far.

“I’m on my third pair of running shoes already,” says the NDP’s Rankin. A grind? No, he says, he likes that the long campaign provides a chance to talk to people longer. “I’m on the doorstep every night except those nights when I’ve got a debate to go to.” Again, 12-hour days, every day.

At least Victoria is compact, easier to get around than, say, the new Cowichan-Malahat-Langford constituency, its boundaries appearing to have been drawn by an Ottawa bureaucrat who has never tried to drive to Duncan on a Friday night. And imagine campaigning in northern B.C.’s Skeena-Bulkley Valley, which at 323,000 square kilometres is 1.5 times the size of Great Britain.

As for Tofino’s 84-day marathon, it won’t happen: B.C. Hydro says the clocks in Tofino (and Ucluelet, and Ahousaht) should be back up to speed by Sept. 24, when the Great Central Lake substation gets reintegrated into the grid, completing a $52-million project that will assure reliable power for the next 30 to 50 years.

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