And away we go. The question is: where? In the last federal election, the answer was clear. While Canada tilted Liberal, Vancouver Island, always its own political microclimate, gave six of seven seats to the NDP. The other riding went to Green Leader Elizabeth May, whose win in Saanich-Gulf Islands was more like a coronation.
Then came a Green byelection win in Nanaimo this spring, plus a series of polls showing that party gaining as Jagmeet Singh’s NDP sagged. Island New Democrats, who tend to treat the Greens as the kooky anti-vaxxer uncle who spouts off at family dinners (and who is taken seriously nowhere else in Canada) felt an unexpected heat.
On Monday, the NDP fired off a press release in which it raised the spectre of May teaming with Conservative Andrew Scheer to reopen the abortion debate. That kind of shot signals where it sees the danger lying as the campaign for the Oct. 21 vote begins today.
Is the shift real? Will the Greens really surge, and, if so, will it be enough to bring that party more seats on the Island, or just bleed away enough of the NDP vote to give someone else the edge? Will Conservative voters who drifted away after Stephen Harper hit his best-before date return to the fold? Or will Max Bernier’s right-wing People’s Party of Canada nibble away enough Conservative support to pull the latter back down?
Here’s how the Island looks as the campaign begins:
With incumbent New Democrat Murray Rankin stepping down, this is the only Island seat guaranteed to be filled by a new member of Parliament.
The NDP chose first-term Victoria councillor Laurel Collins to replace Rankin. She’ll be up against the Greens’ Racelle Kooy. Neither has the profile of their party’s candidate in 2015, when Rankin beat former CBC broadcaster Jo-Ann Roberts 30,147 to 23,577.
The Liberals and Conservatives were also-rans in that race, combining for fewer than 17,000 votes. This time the Liberals are represented by Nikki Macdonald, a former adviser to prime minister Jean Chrétien and the daughter of Pierre Trudeau-era cabinet minister Donald Macdonald. Chef Richard Caron is running for the Conservatives, Alyson Culbert for the People’s Party, Jasper Duttenhoffer for the Rhinoceros Party (!) and Jordan Reichert — known for his opposition to Victoria’s horsedrawn carriages — for the Animal Protection Party.
Sabina Singh has had a busy summer. First, the political scientist married Anglican minister Alastair McCollum. Now, as the NDP candidate, she has the unenviable task of trying to unseat Green leader May.
That’s a much higher hill to climb than Singh would have faced in Victoria, where she sought the nomination that went to Collins. May, the only Vancouver Island candidate to top 50 per cent of the vote in 2015, might have to go orca-hunting with Trump to shake the Sidney/Salt Spring faithful.
Central Saanich Mayor Ryan Windsor, who once ran for the B.C. Greens on the Lower Mainland, is the Liberal candidate. Saanich Peninsula lawyer David Busch is running for the Conservatives (who held the seat before May) and Ron Broda for the People’s Party.
NDP incumbent Randall Garrison retained the seat fairly comfortably in 2015, but this time the Greens are high on the chances of David Merner, who -- and how is this for political drama? — placed second for the Liberals last time. Merner, who was already ticked off about Trudeau’s post-election backtracking on electoral reform, switched teams the day the prime minister bought the Trans Mountain pipeline last year.
The Liberals, meanwhile, are high on Merner’s ballot replacement, retired army colonel and Afghanistan and Bosnia veteran Jamie Hammond. Longtime West Shore dentist Randall Pewarchuk is going for the Conservatives. Libertarian Josh Steffler has also declared.
Here’s the result that got the New Democrats squirming: This spring, 31Ú2 years after finishing fourth to victorious New Democrat Sheila Malcolmson, Green Paul Manly almost doubled his proportion of the vote in winning a byelection to replace her. That made him just the second Green elected to Parliament, joining May.
OK, not too much should be read into byelection results. Restive voters often use them as political warning shots, and the relatively low voter turnout can produce results that don’t get repeated in a general election. Still, the election of Manly — the son of a former New Democrat MP, no less — stunned many.
Manly will face the same three opponents he faced in the byelection — New Democrat Bob Chamberlin, Liberal Michelle Corfield and Conservative John Hirst. Also running is Jennifer Clarke, who decided to run for the People’s Party after losing the Conservative nomination to Hirst.
Rookie NDP incumbent Alistair MacGregor is up against the Greens’ Lydia Hwitsum, a UVic law grad and former chief of the Cowichan Tribes. Former Alberta MLA Alana DeLong has the Conservatives’ spot, while real estate agent Blair Herbert is the Liberal and Rhonda Chen the People’s Party representative.
New Democrat Gord Johns of Tofino defeated longtime Conservative MP John Duncan in 2015. This time the Conservatives are running Byron Horner, a Parksville businessman whose grandfather, Ralph Horner, served in the Senate for more than 30 years. Also in the race will be Green Sean Wood and the People’s Party’s Troy Whitley. The Liberals hadn’t named a candidate as of Tuesday.
North Island-Powell River
First-term New Democrat MP Rachel Blaney won by about 8,000 votes over her Conservative and Liberal opponents in 2015, with the Green candidate a distant fourth. Blaney will face the same Liberal, Peter Schwarzhoff, this time. Running for the Conservatives is Shelley Downey, a four-term Port McNeill councillor, while Mark de Bruijn represents the Greens and Brian Rundle the People’s Party.