Tight race in Victoria has Green Party looking for a big win in federal election
With no incumbent on the ballot it's a riding to watch, says political analyst
A Monday morning downpour fails to dampen the spirit of Green Party volunteers waving to motorists at a busy Victoria intersection during the height of rush hour.
Their candidate Racelle Kooy is battling against the NDP's Laurel Collins and the Liberals' Nikki Macdonald in a race that a University of Victoria expert says will be one to watch.
Political scientist Kim Speers says polling in mid-August indicated the Greens and Liberals were tied for support, but more recent polls place the Greens neck and neck with the NDP and the Liberals slightly behind in popularity.
"We had an excellent showing in 2015, and this is the one we get to bring it home," said Kooy.
One key factor is the continuing trend of the Green Party's increasing popularity on Vancouver Island.
In the last two federal elections, national Green Leader Elizabeth May won in the adjoining riding of Saanich-Gulf Islands.
Then in a 2019 byelection, Paul Manly won in Nanaimo-Ladysmith.
The Victoria riding covers the capital city of B.C., Oak Bay and a corner of the municipality of Saanich.
Oak Bay includes most of B.C.Green Party Leader Andrew Weaver's provincial riding of Oak Bay-Gordon Head.
Green Party insiders believe their "easiest pick up" will be Victoria.
According to political experts, one reason that may be true is the Green Party platform.
The burgeoning climate change social movement has put a lot of pressure on politicians to act sooner rather than later.
"The Greens, they are the party that focuses on environmental policy," said Speers.
"The Green Party agenda seems to be really resonating with people in this election."
In the past, the riding was held by Liberal David Anderson who was elected four times until he retired from politics in 2006.
Then, the NDP's Denise Savoie filled the seat until 2012.
When Savoie retired, Victoria constituents continued to vote NDP and elected Murray Rankin.
In the 2015 federal election, Rankin won with about 6,700 votes more than his closest opponent Green Party candidate Jo-Ann Roberts. Rankin recently left politics to chair Canada's National Security and Intelligence Review Agency (NSIRA).
Now, with no incumbent in the race, Victoria is the only Vancouver Island riding guaranteed to get a new member of parliament on October 21.
Green candidate Kooy feels a lot of Rankin votes will come to her.
"I've had a lot of longtime NDP supporters say — one, we love Murray Rankin. It was more of a Murray Rankin vote than it was an NDP vote," said Kooy.
"Or, we're not satisfied with what's going on with the NDP whether it was provincial or federal."
Climate change and affordable housing are top of mind with voters and politicians in the riding.
Conservative candidate Richard Caron is a chef and works two jobs. He and his flight attendant wife have two small children.
"I would lump myself in that 46 per cent of Canadians who say at the end of the month they're $200 or less away from financial insolvency," says Caron.
Liberal candidate Nikki Macdonald has spent the past decade promoting ocean and climate research.
She says people understand that the Liberal government's purchase of the Trans Mountain Pipeline was necessary to make a transition from a fossil fuel economy to a clean economy.
"We really need to take urgent action on the environment," said Macdonald.
Heading to the finish line
The NDP's candidate is Laurel Collins, a first-time Victoria city councillor.
She readily admits this election is going to be a closely fought race.
Collins said it's important for each of the candidates to remember, in the remaining days of the campaign, the words of her predecessor Murray Rankin.
"It's never safe and you always have to keep working right up until the last minute," said Collins. "There's really no such thing as a safe seat."
Also on the ballot are candidates for the People's Party of Canada, the Communist Party of Canada, the Animal Protection Party of Canada, the Veterans Coalition Party of Canada and one independent.
With files from Paisley Woodward