As B.C.’s election races towards its conclusion, candidates running in the three Saanich ridings are trying to reach undecided voters, while preparing themselves for a potentially historic outcome.
Oak Bay-Gordon Head will likely receive much attention Tuesday as the riding of BC Green leader Andrew Weaver, whose party is polling at 24 per cent provincewide according to a Forum Research survey.
This support could see the Greens expand Weaver’s electoral beachhead in the legislature and potentially grant them the balance of power as a minority government looms. The last election to deny any party a majority of seats took place in 1952.
“A minority government is one of many different scenarios that could play out on May 9,” said Weaver. “I have repeatedly said that the BC Greens’ aim is to give people something to vote for, not against. If pundits are talking about a minority government, we can’t stop them.”
Weaver, however, stressed he is focusing on his local riding in the coming days and beyond.
“I will be canvassing in Oak Bay-Gordon Head in the days before the election as well,” he said. “My constituents should look at my record of representing them. I believe I’ve a done a great job representing them and I hope that OBGH will continue put their trust in me to represent their interests in the legislature.”
BC Liberal Alex Dutton and New Democrat Bryce Casavant are campaigning to replace Weaver as MLA.
Dutton, who has consistently questioned Weaver’s effectiveness as a “lone voice” in the legislature, said she and her volunteers will spend the final campaign days doing what they have been doing since January: hitting the streets, talking with potential voters at doorsteps across the riding.
“That has been our game since the beginning,” she said. During an average day of door knocking, Dutton spends anywhere between five and seven hours hitting the pavement over 11 to 15 kilometres of the campaign trail.
The BC Liberals held the riding from 1996 until 2013 and Dutton acknowledged in a recent interview that her party has gone through considerable effort to win back Vancouver Island seats. To that end, Dutton has represented the governing BC Liberals during a couple of regional all-party meetings.
“I don’t think I feel any particular pressure,” she said, when asked about being the local face of the party. “One of the reasons why I have been brought out to represent the party…is because I have a background in debating and I have a background as a litigator. So I’m very used to thinking on my feet, speaking concisely and speaking in public.”
Casavent also plans to spend the final days canvassing. “I’ve been averaging 500 doors per day across Gordon Head and Oak Bay, and I plan to continue at that rate right until Tuesday,” he said “I’m starting to circle back to some neighbourhoods where many people weren’t home the first time through, both in the north and south half of the constituency.”
While on the doorsteps, Casavant has been aiming his critique at Weaver. “The incumbent…has been picking fights with teachers, he supported Christy Clark’s budgets and has taken his constituency for granted both over the last four years and in this campaign,” he said. “As a result, many people on the doorstep have said they’re switching their vote this time around – much more than I expected.”
Saanich South sees incumbent Lana Popham of the NDP fending off the Green Party’s Mark Neufeld and BC Liberal David Calder as her major party challengers.
Popham has seen the polls showing Greens doing well across the Island, but does not trust them. “I never trust the polls, and the 2013 election shows we can never take any riding for granted,” she said. However, Popham, remains confident.
“The voters of Saanich South have elected me twice as their MLA, and I am feeling strong support again from my constituents in this campaign.”
This said, Popham is not taking anything for granted. “I am canvassing in every corner of Saanich South and will be going full out until the polls close Tuesday at 8 p.m.” People want a change in government, she said.
As for Neufeld, his public expectations are high.
“It looks like it could be a fairly historic evening for us,” said Neufeld, who is optimistic about his chances. Federal Green leader Elizabeth May represents part of Saanich South, which also happens to border Weaver’s Oak Bay-Gordon Head riding and Saanich North, where the local Green candidate also runs strong. So Neufeld is counting on a spill-over-effect. “I’m certainly prepared to win,” he said.
Calder also sees a good chance for himself. “We are in a close battle to win this riding and we’ve still got a lot of hard work ahead of us before election day – to take my eye off the objective of earning the right to represent the constituents of riding would be a mistake,” he said. “What the Legislature looks like on May 10th is up to B.C. voters.”
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