BRITISH COLUMBIA

Christy Clark Vote: Liberal Leader Casts Ballot In Burnaby

05/08/2013 05:33 EDT | Updated 07/08/2013 05:12 EDT
BURNABY, B.C. - A few hours after advanced polls opened across British Columbia on Wednesday, Premier Christy Clark cast her ballot, but the Liberal leader was still lagging behind 92-year-old Juanita Savege.

The Maple Ridge senior sat in the crowd at Clark's first campaign stop of the day with an "I voted" sticker already adorning her blouse alongside a Liberal campaign button.

She voted for the first time when she was 21, and her best estimate for the tally since then is "hundreds."

"In all elections, I'm sure it's well over 100 ... but at least 70. I never missed an election unless I was away or something like that," said Savege, who was thrilled to be singled out for kudos from Clark during the premier's speech at the campaign office of Marc Dalton, the Liberal candidate in Maple Ridge-Mission.

Dalton may have eked out one of the narrowest Liberal victories in the last provincial election in 2009, with just 68 votes over his New Democrat rival, but he has Savege's support. Or at least he has the spillover effect from Savege's adoration for the provincial leader.

"I think it's going very well for Christy. I was a little disappointed in the debate, (but) I thought Christy won that one. I really did," Savege said.

"I like her feistiness, I like her determination and I like her truthfulness. I think she is a true, blue girl and I just think she needs to get in there."

Her dedication to democracy goes beyond checking a box on the ballot. Savege has worked for Social Credit and Liberal campaigns in the past.

"I worked for quite a few of them, in the background, you know, and loved it and had fun," she said as Clark shook hands nearby, before being ushered to the next of the five campaign events she had planned in Metro Vancouver on Wednesday.

"It's very slick, I'll tell you."

Savege is one of the thousands of political foot soldiers deployed during the frenzied few weeks of the campaign.

They knock on doors, make cold calls and help people to get on the voters list. If need be, they pick up lunches, hand out lawn signs and they may spend much of election day driving voters who have requested a ride to polling booths.

It's "old school politics," said Brad Bennett, the son of former Social Credit premier Bill Bennett, grandson of former premier W.A.C. Bennett and a high-profile Liberal supporter who has accompanied Clark throughout four weeks of campaigning.

"Not everything changes, you know. Technology and the way we disseminate information has changed rapidly but old politics are still as valuable and tried and true today as they always were," Bennett said.

It's important to not just win support, but get that support to the polling booths, he said.

"Campaigns and individual ridings are won and run on the ground," he said. "You have to get them to vote. You can't leave them on the doorstep."

Clark later appeared with two first-time voters at a quick campaign speech to the lunch crowd enjoying dim sum at a restaurant in Burnaby.

"This election is crucial for deciding the future of our province and the future of our children for a generation to come," she said.

A few block away, she and Bennett both cast their ballots in Burnaby. Clark is seeking election in Vancouver-Point Grey but her vote will be counted in Vancouver-Fairview where she lives.

Voter turnout in B.C. dropped to an abysmal 51 per cent of eligible voters in the last provincial election in 2009, and the Liberal leader skipped the typical election-day photo op in order to raise awareness that advanced polls will be open through Saturday.

"We live in a great country and a lot of people made tremendous sacrifices to ensure our right to vote was preserved, so let's make sure we use it," Clark said.

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