The New Democratic Party candidate for the Abbotsford South riding is preparing to take on long-term incumbent John van Dongen one voter at a time.
Lakhvinder Jhaj - a mother of three with a background in farming, small business, and community activism - is looking to challenge John van Dongen, who has held the Liberal stronghold riding for 17 years.
However, the veteran politician will be running for the B.C. Conservatives in the next election after crossing the floor in March.
Jahj plans to determine voters' priorities and raise her profile in the riding the old-fashioned way.
"A lot of hard work is needed and lots of door knocking. People want to see candidates on their door steps," said Jhaj.
Jhaj, who moved back to her childhood home of Abbotsford with her family two years ago, works for the Canadian Imperial Bank of Commerce and is a guest reporter with Shaw TV in Chilliwack.
She and her family spent 24 years in Penticton where they alternately owned an orchard, two convenience stores and a grocery store.
She was also the president of the Penticton and District Multicultural Society and a member of various city committees focusing on agriculture, downtown revitalization and parks and recreation.
She entered the provincial political fray as the NDP candidate for the Boundary-Similkameen riding in the 2009 election and lost the race by three per cent.
Historically, the NDP has done poorly in right-of-centre Abbotsford South.
Van Dongen swept the last election as a Liberal with 58.5 per cent of the vote compared to the NDP, which garnered 25.6 per cent.
But the NDP hopes to profit from the party's current popularity in the polls and a potential vote split between the B.C. Conservatives and B.C. Liberals.
Van Dongen agreed the political landscape has altered since the last election.
"There's no question that in a three-way race there's a different dynamic that needs to be recognized," he said.
"But I feel I have a good record to put in front of my constituents and election time is that opportunity for accountability."
But the election is still eight months away and voters' concerns and all the parties public support will shift and evolve in the meantime, he added.
However, van Dongen feels three issues are top of mind with voters: rebuilding public trust, protecting and building the economy, and affordable services.
"The issue of trust in government is something all parties are going to have to speak to and address," he said.
"Protecting the economy and building the economy while the global economy is faced with uncertainty and delivering services in an affordable way - voters will be looking at a candidate's and party's ability to deliver on those things," he said.
Both candidates feel they have the background to represent constituent interests in the riding, which supports a large farming sector and South Asian community.
Jhaj grew up on berry farms in Abbotsford and Mission and operated an orchard business in the Okanagan.
Van Dongen has a long pedigree in the dairy sector as a farmer, and has a history in agricultural organizations and business.
"I feel confident," said van Dongen, a former director with Dairyland for 15 years.
"I've had experience in agriculture and business . . . and had some tremendous experience on the governance side and management of large organizations."
Van Dongen said that during his tenure in office, he has been active to represent all members of his riding regardless of their ethnic background.
"Abbotsford is a very multicultural community and I represent everyone equally," he said.
"You have to represent the interests and aspirations of all residents of Abbotsford South and any candidate should plan to do that."
Van Dongen said he enjoys the election process because it allows him to reconnect with voters and meet other contenders.
"One interesting aspect of the election is getting to know the other candidates, and I've developed positive relationships with people running in the past," he said, adding he wished Jhaj well.
Jhaj acknowledged she has to "roll up her sleeves" to get her message out in the coming months.
"Being a community activist, I've tried to play a role in educating people they are important and they count, whether it's one vote or a hundred votes."