Challengers of incumbent South Surrey-White Rock-Cloverdale MP Russ Hiebert have their work cut out for them in the May 2 election.
Though rumblings of discontent with the MP have been rife since he was accused of being “parachuted” into the riding in 2004, it’s worth remembering that he won his first election by a wide margin over runner-up Liberal candidate Judy Higginbotham; increased his standing to 47 per cent of the vote in 2006 against Liberal Jim McMurtry, and 57 per cent in 2008 against Higginbotham again.
Since that time, it’s true, he has ridden out a storm about his expenses – particularly the cost of flying his family to and from Ottawa – and endured the fallout of resignations from the local executive of Conservative electoral district association. But opponents would be wise not to overestimate his vulnerability to attack.
Hiebert has shown a propensity for rolling with the punches, and retreating behind ramparts of carefully prepared statements, or simply ignoring flak and unpleasant topics altogether.
Although candidates like new federal Liberal (and former Conservative) Hardy Staub have been quick to go on the attack, vilifying Hiebert’s pre-election propaganda as “jumping the gun,” Hiebert has been equally quick to return the volleys. Indeed, he has expressed bewilderment at opponents choosing – in his words – a “non-issue” for the first salvo – one which he, as a canny campaigner, knows not many people in the riding truly care about.
While Hiebert does face challenges in this election – and he has alienated some of the vote through perceived arrogance and an apparent inability to respond directly to constituents on a number of issues – he is still sitting atop a Tory stronghold. It will take more than pebbles – however well-aimed – to unseat him. It will take a single credible opponent who can persuade enough voters that he – or she – has a better way for the riding.
While the candidates declared so far – Staub, Larry Colero (Green party), Susan Keeping (NDP), Mike Schouten (Christian Heritage Party) and Aart Looye (independent) – may all have solid ammunition in their armouries, at present they represent only a perfect vote-splitting scenario. Perfect for Hiebert, that is.
They should remember that they are not so much running against the incumbent, whatever his perceived flaws, as against each other.
Unless a clear front runner emerges, and emerges quickly, they are in danger of simply cancelling each other out.
– Peace Arch News