Candidates running in the North Island-Powell River riding for this year’s federal election offered mixed takeaways from the Green Party’s surprise victory in this month’s Nanaimo-Ladysmith byelection.
Green Party candidate Paul Manly took the formerly NDP-held riding with 37.3 per cent of the vote. The Conservative Party’s John Hirst finished in second place with 24.9 per cent, while the New Democratic Party’s Bob Chamberlin came third with 23 per cent. The Liberals finished a distant fourth, securing just 11 per cent of the vote.
The byelection was called after the NDP’s Sheila Malcolmson resigned from the federal seat in October last year to run in January’s provincial byelection in Nanaimo, a contest she won handily but which saw the provincial Greens’ vote-share nosedive by 12.5 points.
The Green Party’s North Island-Powell River candidate Mark de Bruijn said he believes Green voters who were worried about the BC Liberals winning the provincial byelection felt less pressure to vote strategically in this month’s federal contest.
“This byelection took the lid off of strategic voting, because there was absolutely no reason for it; it was a great opportunity to try out a Green MP,” said de Bruijn. “Many people are pretty darn disenchanted with the three main parties. There’s been so many broken election promises, and so much waffling on major issues.”
However, de Bruijn was cautious about hailing the arrival of a “green surge” ahead of the general election.
“We have a big job ahead of us,” he said. “We’re going to give it everything we’ve got.”
North Island-Powell River incumbent Rachel Blaney, NDP, said she was disappointed her party’s candidate lost the byelection.
“The election was called prior to Bob becoming the candidate, so there is no doubt the NDP was late to the game,” said Blaney. “Having worked with Bob for many years, I admire his dedication to wild salmon, indigenous recognition and reconciliation and to the environment.”
Noting the Green win, Blaney said she has pushed her party to prioritize environmental policies.
“Currently we are working on the NDP platform and I have indicated clearly that the environment needs to be at the top of the list,” she added.
The Conservative Party’s local candidate Shelley Downey said she thought “John Hirst and the Conservatives did fine,” and reiterated her support for the Trans Mountain Pipeline expansion in spite of the victorious Greens’ opposition to the project.
“Canada should not have to apologize for extracting our resources and using the proceeds to improve the standard of living here in Canada,” she said.
North Island-Powell River Liberal candidate Peter Schwarzhoff claimed his party’s vote-share in Nanaimo-Ladysmith dropped because Liberal voters stayed at home on byelection day.
“Forty percent voted, so apparently Liberals didn’t; that tells me enthusiasm has definitely been depressed,” he said. “Nevertheless, the national election is not going to be a local contest between personalities and local ideas. I want the Liberals to vote next time so that we don’t have a return to the Conservatives.”
Meanwhile, Peter Marcin, running for the newly-formed People’s Party of Canada in the North Island-Powell River riding, pointed out that the PPC had to start out from scratch in Nanaimo-Ladysmith. The party secured just three per cent of the vote in the byelection.
“Small parties have a difficult job of getting their message out to everyone,” he said. “The Liberals have had 150 years; we only had a 150 days.”