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Federal parties set sights on B.C.’s December by-election

09 Nov 17
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The federal NDP is appearing at next month’s by-election in South Surrey-White Rock as a learning experience for new fans, while the Liberals and Conservatives are bracing for an all-out fight.

Former Tory MP Dianne Watts won by a slim margin in 2015, which has the Tories and Liberals both convinced they have a shot at the chair — among four by-elections across Canada set for Dec. 11. South Surrey-White Rock was made in 2012 and has been Tory ever since. For the Tories, success would provide momentum for rookie leader Andrew Scheer. For the Liberals, it might indicate their breakthrough in B.C. from the 2015 election persists.

“We are inclined to look at these [by-elections] as a sign of how the political winds are blowing,” said Hamish Telford, a political scientist at the University of the Fraser Valley.

Meanwhile the NDP, which came in a distant third in 2015, is about the Dec. 11 vote as a 2019 training opportunity for fans drawn to the celebration by new leader Jagmeet Singh.

“We have got a realistic expectation about that chair,” said Burnaby South NDP MP Kennedy Stewart, the B.C. caucus chair. “We are expecting there will be a very hard mountain for us to climb in that constituency.”

He said the party hasn’t yet chosen a candidate.

“It’s a terrific chance to get people feet wet and get them prepared for 2019, so we’ll be bringing people in from across Surrey to that riding,” he said. “They could do their very first door knocking. They can do their very first phone calls and that type of thing, so we’re prepared for the election two years from today. That’s what we’re excited about.”

Ms. Watts vacated the chair to find the direction of the BC Liberals, an informal coalition of federal Liberals and Conservatives — the two parties currently circling each other for a struggle in the riding.

As of Tuesday, the Conservatives hadn’t named a candidate for the riding, which covers southern Surrey and the town of White Rock. The Liberals have acclaimed former BC Liberal cabinet minister Gordon Hogg.

The former probation officer stated that he isn’t sure what resources the national party would provide for his effort, but members of the Liberal caucus have committed to assist with door-knocking. “It is early in the game at this time, so I don’t know which kind of support I will get out of Ottawa or the national effort,” he said.

Mr. Hogg, 71, was elected to the B.C. legislature in 1997 and didn’t look for re-election in 2017.

He served as minister of children and family development for three years under former premier Gordon Campbell.

Prof. Telford said Mr. Hogg is a fantastic catch for the Liberals because he has name recognition in the riding.

“He is local. He wasn’t parachuted into the riding. He’s got a track record in public life,” he said.

Mr. Hogg said he wasn’t likely to return to politics but saw an opportunity when Ms. Watts resigned.

He said the Liberals were a natural fit because he ran for the party in the 1993 federal election, but was defeated with a Reform Party candidate.

“I have been a Liberal almost for all my life, so for m I was not ready to consider running as a Conservative, though some people had suggested that,” he said.

Mr. Hogg said he’s interested in transit, housing, poverty among seniors and the opioid crisis as issues to take on nationwide.

But he said the Liberals will need to campaign hard. “It’s never been Liberal, and there are a number of substantial challenges with regard to that,” he said.

Scott Lamb, president of the Conservative Party of Canada and a national party councillor for B.C., said the Conservatives are also contested.

“The Liberals are pulling out all the stops in this riding, and we expect them to come hard,” Mr. Lamb said in a meeting.

He acknowledged that Mr. Hogg, a former White Rock town councillor and mayor, is a “popular candidate.”

However, he said the Tories will try to connect him to unpopular national Liberal policies, such as taxation measures affecting small business, as well as proposals they’re clawing back a disability tax credit for diabetics.

“We are going to attempt and keep these guys honest in Ottawa, and honestly, sending another Liberal MP to Ottawa does not do anything to keep them honest,” Mr. Lamb said.

The Tories hope to nominate a candidate on the weekend. Mr. Lamb said he wasn’t positive if Mr. Scheer will come to the riding, but that he hoped other prominent Conservatives will.

“We are going to work hard right up until Dec. 11.”

Courtesy: The Globe And Mail

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