Nanaimo-Ladysmith is returning to election mode, along with the rest of the country.
The Prime Minister asked the Governor General to dissolve Parliament today, Sept. 11, meaning that the campaign is officially underway leading up to the Oct. 21 election.
For voters in the Nanaimo-Ladysmith riding, it’s a rematch of a byelection May 6 that saw the Green Party’s Paul Manly become the member of Parliament.
Five and a half months later, the incumbent Manly will be facing an identical field of opposing candidates: John Hirst of the Conservative Party, Bob Chamberlin of the NDP, Michelle Corfield of the Liberal Party, Jennifer Clarke of the People’s Party of Canada and Brian Marlatt of the Progressive Canadian Party.
Candidates all say they’re ready to get started.
“Everybody in Nanaimo is missing the signs from all the elections, so we thought we’d plaster Nanaimo with a few signs,” joked Corfield, adding that she and her campaign are “so ready” to begin campaigning.
“We’ve been ready for a little while and we’re excited…” she said. “We’re ready to start our ads, our platform and what we think we’re going to be doing.”
Candidates commented that the general election campaign basically began as soon as the byelection ended; some candidates held campaign launch events in recent weeks.
“We’ve spent all summer preparing for this, essentially,” said Hirst. “Lessons learned from last time, changes we want to make, preparation to better set us up for success this time.”
Asked about the initial tasks in an election campaign, Chamberlin said the first day of the campaign is a lot like the last day – it’s about getting out and reaching voters in the riding, “and to answer the questions and concerns people may have in terms of the federal government, but also to ensure that people have a good, clear understanding of the new deal for people, our election commitments.”
Manly said somewhere around 1,100-1,200 Green Party lawn signs will start going up today.
“I’ve got a large team of volunteers who have been out canvassing and phone canvassing and all kinds of other stuff while I’ve been busy working as the MP, because I still have all of those duties and functions to perform,” he said.
Marlatt said he still has some paperwork to take care of, and in his role as Progressive Canadian Party deputy leader, he is also working with other potential candidates across the country.
He commented that federal parties have been in election mode since last fall.
“If you look at what has happened in the House of Commons, very little of it has had anything to do with the national interest and more to do with positioning oneself for a campaign,” Marlatt said. “That’s one of the flaws of the fixed-date election law.”
Candidates generally expect to hear about many of the same issues on doorsteps over the coming weeks that they heard a few months ago.
“I think they’re going to be very similar,” said Manly, adding that ethics and integrity may be more of a talking point this time around after the federal government’s SNC-Lavalin affair. Climate change, health care, affordability, housing, homelessness, crime, and job creation are other issues he thinks are at the forefront.
Hirst said the Conservatives want to help people get ahead and want to talk about ideas around the economic climate, affordability, poverty, homelessness, drug abuse, crime, and mental health and addictions.
He said though the campaign will be “community-based,” it’s a big help to have his party’s Canada-wide campaign to talk about.
“It’s so exciting to be able to go into an election with ammunition,” Hirst said. “Parts of the platform are out and there’ll be more announcements coming.”
Chamberlin said the NDP’s election commitments clearly articulate a path toward renewable energy and he thinks concerns around fossil fuels, freighters, climate and the environment will be on voters’ minds. Universal pharmacare, old-age pensions, affordable housing and cost of living are other issues he mentioned.
“The platform gives an opportunity to showcase the vision of the New Democratic Party as it relates to what we’ve heard from the citizens of Nanaimo-Ladysmith,” Chamberlin said.
Corfield said based on her conversations in recent months, she thinks some of the issues in the general election will differ from some of those that emerged in the byelection. She anticipates talking about pharmacare, climate change, housing affordability, and resources for seniors, and a local issue she highlighted was the importance of a foot-passenger ferry.
“I believe in the party and I believe in the platform we’re putting forward and choosing forward is the right thing to do,” she said.
Marlatt hopes the campaign will include a mix of discussion of federal issues that are “part of the national conversation,” as well as riding issues that he said are largely the same as they were a few months ago. He wants to advocate for the needs of seniors, including old-age pension improvements, and said housing and health care are key issues for seniors and anyone else.
Clarke could not be reached by press time.
Look for more from the News Bulletin’s initial interviews with candidates later this week at www.nanaimobulletin.com.
In the byelection this past May, Manly of the Green Party received 15,302 votes (37.3 per cent); Hirst, Conservatives, 10,215 (24.9 per cent); Chamberlin, NDP, 9,446 (23.0 per cent); Corfield, Liberals, 4,515 (11.0 per cent); Clarke, PPC, 1,268 (3.1 per cent); Marlatt, PC, 253 (0.6 per cent); and Jakob Letkemann, National Citizens Alliance, 66 (0.2 per cent). Voter turnout was 41.4 per cent.
In the most recent general election in October 2015, Sheila Malcolmson of the NDP held the riding with 23,651 votes (33.2 per cent); Tim Tessier of the Liberals had 16,753 (23.5 per cent); Mark MacDonald, Conservatives, 16,637 (23.4 per cent); Manly, Greens, 14,074 (19.8 per cent); Jack East, Marxist-Leninist, 126 (0.2 per cent). Voter turnout was 75 per cent.