Nearly two weeks into the federal election campaign and there are few signs in British Columbia that federal politicians have captured the imaginations of West Coast voters.
During the first week of the campaign, the local media was filled with reports that B.C. was home to 10 important swing ridings, raising hope among local politicos that, for once, the election outcome would not be decided before polls closed out here.
Since then, however, even visits by party leaders have struggled to make the top of local news line-ups or onto newspaper front pages, the implication being that federal politics is still not really hitting the West Coast radar.
Ridings to watch
- Vancouver Island North: NDP defending against a strong Conservative bid.
- West Vancouver-Sunshine Coast-Sea to Sky Country: Liberals battling Conservatives, who are attempting to regain seat.
- Fleetwood-Port Kells: Three-way race with Conservative looking to be in the lead.
- Newton-North Delta: Liberals defending in a close three-way race.
- Esquimalt-Juan de Fuca: Liberals defending against NDP.
- Richmond: Liberals defending against strong Conservative bid.
- Pitt Meadows-Maple Ridge-Mission: tight Conservative-versus-NDP race.
- North Vancouver: Liberals defending against Conservative bid.
- Vancouver Quadra: Liberals defending against Conservatives in close race.
Conservative Leader Stephen Harper did manage to grab headlines on the first day of the campaign by kissing a baby and hanging out at a family home in Richmond, a suburb south of Vancouver. But after several lacklustre visits by the party leaders, the emerging consensus in newsrooms seems to be that this election holds few issues that grab the hearts and minds of B.C. voters.
Not even the announcement of a made-in-B.C. platform by the local Liberals lit a political flame. The Liberals are facing an uphill battle to win support in eco-friendly B.C. with Stéphane Dion's carbon tax proposal functioning as more of political liability than an advantage, some say.
That may have something to do with the fact that, even before the election was called, British Columbians were already grumbling about the province's own carbon tax on all fuels.
That tax was brought in by the B.C. Liberals earlier this year and quickly translated into a big boost in the polls for the opposition NDP, which ran a popular "axe-the-tax" campaign all summer.
West Coast lives up to reputation
But despite the lack of engaging issues for most voters, one of Canada's most interesting ridings has been Vancouver-Sunshine Coast-Sea to Sky Country, which despite having Canada's most wealthy municipality — West Vancouver — seems to be working hard to keep up the province's image as the wacky West Coast.
The riding is held by former Liberal MP Blair Wilson, who was booted from the party over questions about his campaign financing. While Wilson was eventually cleared of wrongdoing, the party refused to admit him back into the fold.
Then, just days before Harper called the Oct. 14 election, Wilson, a former steakhouse owner, made headlines when he was reborn as an eco-warrior and Canada's first sitting Green party MP, a move that gave weight to Elizabeth May's fight for a place in the televised leadership debate.
The riding was back in the news later in Week 2 when the campaign of Dana Larsen, the NDP candidate for the riding, literally went up in smoke. Larsen resigned when it emerged that as co-founder of the B.C. Marijuana Party, he once broadcast a video of himself tripping on LSD and smoking a joint while driving a car for a show on the now defunct Pot TV website.
As yet, the Liberal candidate in West Vancouver has not put up any lawn signs, leaving many in the riding wondering if the Conservative candidate, John Weston, may simply walk away with the race by simply avoiding doing anything to get in the headlines.
What the polls say
Pre-election polling put the Conservatives at 35 per cent in B.C. with the NDP at 28, and the Liberals in a close third at 26. The Greens had their highest level of support at 10 per cent.
(A total of 2,505 people from across the country were surveyed by telephone for the Environics poll. It is considered accurate to within plus or minus two percentage points, 19 times out of 20.)
More recent polls suggest the Conservatives are holding their lead in the race for B.C.'s 36 seats, while the NDP and Greens are also making gains.
If the polls are to be believed, the Liberal's may well lose as many as six of their nine seats in the province, some commentators are suggesting.
That leaves the rest of the province wide open for a race between the Conservatives, who won 17 seats in the last election, and the NDP, who won 10, making the left-right race a true reflection of the province's historical, and what some consider natural political battles.
That also means that with the Conservatives within striking distance of winning a majority government, B.C., with its 10 swing ridings, may get to play kingmaker.