Polls suggest every riding, including Nanaimo-Ladysmith, will matter on election day.
Candidates for the front-running parties in the riding know it’s too close for comfort and perhaps too close to call.
“I think we’re in a three-way horse race here with us and the NDP and the Greens,” said John Hirst, Conservative candidate. “It’s just going to be about who can mobilize their supporters and get them to the polls. We’re telling all our supporters, ‘make sure you take two friends.’”
Paul Manly, Green Party incumbent, won this past spring’s byelection by a double-digit vote percentage, but with 30,000 fewer total votes cast than in the 2015 general election.
The last couple of weeks, the Greens and NDP have been at odds on the debate stage and through advertising.
“We’ve been dealing with some misleading attack ads and trying to deal with making sure people understand what the truth is,” said Manly in response to NDP ads that reference Green leader Elizabeth May’s comments about not preventing Green MPs from re-opening abortion debate, and about theoretically supporting a Conservative government.
“We have a policy of strengthening social programs, so we would not support any government that would cut social programs, and we will always stand for a woman’s right to choose and I think that’s a done debate in this country,” Manly said.
Bob Chamberlin, NDP candidate, said the ads simply challenged statements, and he added it was “distasteful” how Manly brought up provincial NDP decisions on LNG at each of the federal election debates.
“I’m seeing a wilful focus on misleading the voters here about the NDP specifically, and I’m thinking, well, how is that not an attack?” Chamberlin said.
The candidates believe the tone of the final week will be around positive messaging.
“I’ve always taken the approach that I’m putting forward a positive vision for the community, for the country and for our future,” Manly said.
Chamberlin said the NDP has “positive momentum,” much of it following around leader Jagmeet Singh on the campaign trail.
“People are getting to know the man and I’m really happy about that because he’s such an incredible human being and he’s got such a great vision,” Chamberlin said. “And is certainly providing leadership that the country needs right now rather than, as he puts it, two guys arguing over who’s going to be worse for the country.”
Chamberlin has been watching the polls and said there’s no reason to think the NDP can’t continue to climb.
“I don’t foresee Jagmeet being tripped up between now and election day. He’s faced some very difficult things like racism and that kind of stuff that have come up for him and [we’ve] seen how well he’s managed it,” Chamberlin said.
Hirst said Conservative leader Andrew Scheer’s efforts nationally are “definitely” helping the party’s Nanaimo-Ladysmith campaign, but said conversations on the doorsteps continue to revolve around close-to-home issues.
“We’re pretty focused on the local picture,” Hirst said. “What happens nationally of course will affect us, but there’s not much we can do to control it, so we just focus on what we can control.”
Hirst said his team is ready for election day with a ground game that’s “second to none.” He suggested many Conservatives were tentative at the time of the byelection but are now “excited and riled up” for the general election. The final week of the campaign, Hirst said, will be much like the previous weeks, “getting out there, speaking to voters, hitting doorsteps. We’ve been really encouraged by the amount of our support that voted in the advance polls, so we’re just doubling down on our ground game and going hard right to the finish line.”
The Greens have a few sign-waving events this week and May will be in the riding talking international trade as the party looks to keep rallying support. Manly said whether people like him as MP or his party because of what it stands for, he hopes people vote for what they want rather than strategically against what they don’t.
“Vote for the policies that best represent you. Vote for the candidate that is going to stand up for your values and stand up for the community in the way you want them to…” he said. “If you don’t vote for what you want, you’re not going to get what you want.”
Election day is Oct. 21.
Other candidates include Michelle Corfield, Liberal Party; Jennifer Clarke, People’s Party of Canada; Brian Marlatt, Progressive Canadian Party; James Chumsa, Communist Party; Geoff Stoneman, independent; Echo White, independent.
To find out where and how to vote, visit http://elections.ca.