B.C. poised to take central role in 2019 federal election

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Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s journey from Rideau Hall straight to a campaign rally for a high-profile candidate in the NDP-held Vancouver Kingsway riding is symbolic of the crucial role B.C. could play in this federal election.

Trudeau made significant gains in B.C. during the last election, particularly in Metro Vancouver, which he can’t afford to lose and, indeed, will want to build upon with polls so close heading into the vote.

“In that context, every seat matters,” said a University of B.C. political science professor, Kathryn Harrison, especially in B.C. with its 42 seats and more of them up for grabs due to “some distinct issues that will come up.”

The Liberals won 17 of B.C.’s 42 seats for Trudeau’s government in 2015, but the record he is running on includes the controversial decision to support and then buy the Trans Mountain Pipeline, which Harrison said is likely to be key for a lot of voters in Lower Mainland ridings.

“It suggests Mr. Trudeau sees B.C. as an important battleground,” Harrison said of the prime minister’s appearance with Liberal candidate Tamara Taggart, the former CTV Vancouver news anchor seeking to unseat incumbent Don Davies in the NDP stronghold of Vancouver Kingsway.

Trudeau and Taggart held a rally for the Vancouver-Kingsway riding’s Liberal faithful at the Italian Cultural Centre in the heart of the riding.

Taggart told the crowd she believed the Liberals had brought about real change to what matters most to Canadians.

“We can’t afford to go backward with Andrew Scheer,” she said. She said the Conservative leader has been wrong on women’s reproductive and LGBTQ2+ rights, and has no plan for the economy and to improve the environment.

“Andrew Scheer will pull us back into the Harper years, and that’s not the kind of Canada where everyone gets ahead.”

Trudeau then crossed the stage to his campaign song, One Hand Up by The Strumbellas. The crowed chanted “Justin” and he embraced local candidates. He warmly introduced Taggart as “a woman who has pledged to use her voice to help those who need it most.”

“Tamara is a fierce advocate for women’s rights and she knows the importance of giving back to this community,” he said. “She’s smart, she’s compassionate and she’s exactly the kind of person who should be representing the people of Vancouver-Kingsway.”

Taggart, in winning the Liberal nomination, had said her “family’s life is in the riding,” though she lives one block outside of it, but Davies, on Wednesday, zeroed in on that fact.

“There is a real suspicion among people who live in the riding when someone from the outside parachutes in. Out of riding, out of touch.”


Vancouver-Kingsway MP Don Davies in 2018.

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Davies cited issues of housing affordability, climate emergency and ethics as key in this election, which he understands from more than a decade of representing the riding since he was elected in 2008.

“People are really struggling in an east side riding. I am extremely disappointed there has been virtually no federal funding for affordable housing over the last four years,” he said.

The decision of Trudeau’s team to start the campaign in B.C. speaks to shrewd politics in trying to find places to shore up their vote to make up for potential losses, said a University of the Fraser Valley political scientist, Hammish Telford.

Looking around the rest of B.C., he said the province’s Interior, Okanagan and Fraser Valley look to remain strongly Conservative.

“I don’t see the Conservative fortress crumbling in the Fraser Valley,” Telford said.

Some Liberal seats, such as Vancouver Quadra, held by Joyce Murray, and Hedy Fry’s Vancouver Centre also appear safe, but to start in Davies’ stronghold of Vancouver Kingsway, “certainly displays a sense of confidence maybe bordering on arrogance.”

It says “we’ve got to poach some NDP seats elsewhere, so let’s go right at it from the beginning and try to steal this one, because this is a riding that is shifting in terms of demographics and Tamara Taggart is a high-profile candidate,” Telford said.

One particular weak spot for the Liberals is the Burnaby North-Seymour riding held by first-term MP Terry Beech, who is facing the NDP’s Svend Robinson, a former MP for North Burnaby who has a strong record on the environment, said Simon Fraser University political scientist Patrick Smith. “I live in North Burnaby and I can certainly tell you here, the only thing my neighbours want to talk about when they talk politics is about (the Trans Mountain pipeline).”


Justin Trudeau speaks to a crowd at the Italian Cultural Centre on Wednesday night.

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Smith also sees room for the NDP and Green parties to vie for voters disaffected over the Trans Mountain pipeline issue, especially for the Greens on southern Vancouver Island, where Paul Manley won the Nanaimo seat for the party in a byelection.

He said he doesn’t expect the Greens will make “a dramatic breakthrough, but a breakthrough,” Smith said.

And the Conservative party sees “a lot of room for change,” as well, said Kerry-Lynne Findlay, a former MP from Delta who lost her seat to the Liberals’ Carla Qualtrough in the last election but is running again in Surrey-White Rock.

The Conservatives won just 10 of 42 seats in 2015, but Findlay said the party held 22 seats going into that election.

“So we certainly believe (B.C.) is a battleground.” The party’s message about making life more affordable resonates with a lot of voters, Findlay said. “We certainly hear it on the doorstep.

Conservative leader Andrew Scheer opened his party’s campaign in Trois-Rivières, Que. The NDP’s Jagmeet Singh, started in London, Ont. and Green party Leader Elizabeth May stayed close to her Saanich-Gulf Islands riding by launching her campaign in Victoria.

With files from Nick Eagland and Joanne Lee-Young, Postmedia News



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