Name recognition and community connections were factors in the election in Nanaimo-Ladysmith, say university professors.
Green Party candidate Paul Manly was re-elected in the riding in Monday’s general election, beating out John Hirst of the Conservatives by roughly 6,000 votes according to unofficial numbers from Elections Canada. Bob Chamberlin of the NDP finished third while Michelle Corfield of the Liberals came fourth.
Liberal leader Justin Trudeau will remain as prime minister after his party squeezed out enough seats to form a minority government.
Alexander Netherton, political studies professor at Vancouver Island University, said the Greens had a good campaign and that Manly was the candidate to beat following his byelection win in May.
“Paul Manly is an interesting mix because really seemed to be kind of an NDP guy, he’s very social-democratic in a philosophical sense but he’s very green at the same time,” Netherton said. “He’s a very talented guy.”
Chamberlin was a good candidate, but name recognition locally was a factor in his loss, said Netherton.
“I think candidate recognition has a lot to do with it…” he said. “It does seem to me that some of his professional activities and representation [happened] up Island.”
Michael Prince, professor of social policy at the University of Victoria, said Manly had the upper hand having run in 2015 against Malcolmson. He also said name recognition and connection to the community were factors in the Nanaimo-Ladysmith riding.
“Family name, connection to the area, I think that mattered in Nanaimo,” Prince said.
While there are some ridings where “parachuting” a candidate works, Prince said that isn’t always the case, particularly if the other candidates are well-known and have formed a connection with their community.
“Canadians vote for all sorts of different reasons but people get their backs up if they think someone is not genuinely of the community,” Prince said.
According to Netherton, the NDP’s biggest mistake was rejecting Manly as a candidate before the 2015 federal election. He said that decision is now coming back to haunt them.
“They should have been smart enough to grab this guy early on and they didn’t and that is much to their chagrin,” he said.
Netherton said Leonard Krog and Sheila Malcolmson were the two “star” NDP candidates in Nanaimo. He said Krog’s decision to move into municipal politics and Malcolmson’s move into provincial politics put the federal NDP in a position where they had no natural successor.
When it came to Conservative candidate Hirst, Netherton described him as an interesting, creative and dynamic young candidate who performed well. However, what hurt Hirst was that his party’s platform was “weird” and “not really thought out” said Netherton, adding that Conservative leader Andrew Scheer’s platform didn’t address issues that were important to many voters in Nanaimo.
“Mr. Scheer wasn’t really talking about things that would really help people with our homelessness, our affordability issues here in the city,” he said. “That was one of the things that stopped Mr. Hirst.”
According to Prince, negative campaigning and messaging from Scheer didn’t resonate with voters on Vancouver Island.
“Not releasing his platform until virtually the end of the campaign, I think that was a mistake,” Prince said. “Although, once it was revealed I could see why he chose to hold it back. There was a lot of austerity and cutbacks.”
Netherton described the overall election campaign as one that was “bitter and “low-level” and full of character assassinations. He said he believes the pipeline will be a big issue moving forward and that Monday’s results show that electoral reform is something that will come back into the conversation again.
“This is a textbook case for the necessity of electoral reform,” Netherton said. “I think for the first time in a long time you’re going to see the Conservatives hot on this because of their vote. They got the popular vote but they don’t have power so if this is not the recipe to get interested in electoral reform, I don’t know what is.”
Meanwhile, Prince said the overall results weren’t surprising and that Trudeau will have to compromise and learn to work with the other parties. He also said chatter about Western separatism will continue in the months ahead.
“That will continue, there is no doubt about it,” Prince said. “You just have to hope that the oil and gas industry and the price of commodities pick up again and they’ll see some better times. But then again, it won’t stop them from rumbling. It’s like Quebec nationalism, these things, they are there.”
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