With less than a week to go before the federal election, Vancouver Islanders can take some comfort in the knowledge that their votes will actually make a difference.
Too often in national elections the outcome is determined in central Canada while our polls are still open.
Not this year. Conservative leader Stephen Harper confirmed this on Easter weekend when he packed his bored wife, his handlers, the fuzz and the national media onto his jet in Toronto and made a beeline for Campbell River where he wooed 350 partisans.
I spoke to a couple of the national media at the event and they agreed there was only one reason for their long trek across the nation . . . Vancouver Island North MP John Duncan is in serious trouble with NDP candidate Ronna-Rae Leonard breathing down his neck.
Duncan, Harper’s Minister of Indian Affairs and Northern Development, is in trouble with recreational fishermen and that covers just about everyone up in that neck of the idle woods. Residents are fuming over the government’s handling of the annual halibut fishery. They feel they are getting shafted in favour of the commercial fishery and Duncan is paying the price.
Of course, the prime minister avoided the issue. Instead he did his mind numbing mantra . . . stable majority, yes, chaotic coalition, no. In the dying days of the campaign, Harper is even asking us to view NDP leader Jack Layton as a dangerously ambitious socialist. It’s a tough sell because many Canadians see the cancer-surviving, hip-disabled leader as enormously compelling.
Clearly, Layton’s commitments on health, education, seniors and the environment are playing well in B.C. and he stands to gain seats if he can maintain his momentum.
This popularity — at the expense of the hapless Liberals and soon-to-be-jobless Michael Ignatieff — has unintended consequences. Esquimalt-Juan de Fuca is a perfect example where Liberal candidate Lillian Szpak (taking the place of retired MP Keith Martin) may lose enough votes to the NDP’s Randall Garrison to hand victory to Conservative challenger Troy DeSouza.
In Saanich-Gulf Islands, Green leader Elizabeth May needs the Liberal and NDP votes to collapse in order to overtake incumbent Tory Gary Lunn. The shoring up of the riding’s modest NDP vote and the strong performance of the Liberal candidate suggests that cannot happen.
Are there other ridings on the island where NDP gains will help change the political landscape? My riding-by-riding analysis indicates not unless there is an NDP tsunami across the nation.
One election scenario generated by “ThreeHundredEight,” a prestigious Ottawa-based elections think tank, indicates that Layton could become the leader of the Opposition if his growth in these last days is unchecked and the party garners 29 per cent support nationally, currently it is about 24 per cent. Such an outcome would see a new minority parliament with 145 Tories, 83 NDP, 50 Liberals and 30 Bloc. In B.C., the NDP would go from nine seats to 11.
I believe the NDP’s unparalleled growth will level off as we approach the weekend and Layton will have to take pride in modest gains while the Liberals and the Bloc bleed seats to give the Tories the slimmest of majorities.
Here’s my projected seat count: Tories 156 (143 at dissolution), Liberals 68 (77), NDP 43 (36) and the Bloc 40 (47). M