Nanaimo could be an election battleground

This will be the first election in some time that Nanaimo will be represented by one MP.

Another silly season is upon us.

It’s not the weather – there’s nothing silly about double-digit temperatures and clear, blue skies in winter. We take that quite seriously.

The third visit in less than a year by the country’s leader of the Official Opposition, plus visits from the party’s critics signals that Nanaimo is a riding that the NDP is focused on winning in the fall when the expected federal election is called.

The NDP has had its candidate, former Islands Trust chairwoman Sheila Malcolmson, in place for months. As has the Conservative Party, picking former Daily News editor Mark MacDonald, and the Green Party, which announced filmmaker and activist Paul Manly as its candidate in Nanaimo.

Except for the Liberal Party, the major pieces are assembled for the showdown later this year in Nanaimo. And one of the furthest ridings from the seat of power is shaping up to be a major battleground.

This will be the first election in some time that Nanaimo will be represented by one MP; previously, the region sent the NDP’s Jean Crowder to represent Nanaimo-Cowichan and the Tories’ James Lunney from Nanaimo-Alberni. Neither are running again.

The new riding stretches from the Cowichan Valley to just north of Lantzville.

Tommy Douglas, one of history’s greatest Canadians, held the Nanaimo-Cowichan seat for a decade. It would seem to be a safe seat for the NDP, but for a surging Green Party, whose popular leader Elizabeth May has made several appearances over the years – including a memorable stop which saw her call staff in the prime minister’s office “ruthless, cutthroat psychopaths.”

A Green Party win in such an historic seat for the NDP is not a story the Dippers would like to see.

It’s going to be a long, exhausting campaign for all of us. Malcolmson has made appearances at local governments, including Regional District of Nanaimo, touting her predecessor’s private member’s bill to deal with derelict vessels. Manly was scheduled to be at Nanaimo city council last night to argue for increased protection for the region’s watershed. We might not have heard from MacDonald yet, but I’m sure the Tory war machine is in operational mode behind the scenes.

We could see a Conservative MP in the region; Lunney held the seat in Parksville since 2000, and prior to that, the region has been represented by some incarnation of the Conservative Party since 1984. Not only that, but as the NDP and the Green Party divide up the progressive vote on the centre-left, it leaves a gaping hole for the Tories to slide right into.

Then again, Trudeaumania 2.0 might hit the left coast before the summer is out.

So how will this all play out? Well, I ran the scenarios through my Magic 8-ball (crystal is a little outside of a reporter’s pay range) and the answer kept coming up “reply hazy – try again later.”

I’ll see you on the hustings.

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