Liberal leader Christy Clark brushed off questions about the so-called wave of Green party support that threatens to cost her two seats on the South Island during campaign stops in Oak Bay and Sidney on Saturday.
Clark said the choice for voters in Oak Bay-Gordon Head remains between the Liberal plan to grow the economy and lower taxes and the NDP proposal for “out-of-control” spending.
“This is a really stark choice that we’ve got in front of us, and I don’t think the choice in Oak Bay-Gordon Head or the South Island is any different from anywhere else in the province,” she said.
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Despite her attempt to ignore the Green party, Clark nonetheless spent much of Saturday trying to bolster Liberal support in the two ridings where the Greens are strongest — Oak Bay-Gordon Head and Saanich North and the Islands.
Liberals there admit they are in tough three-way races against NDP candidates — who have been campaigning for more than 18 months — and Green candidates riding high after the federal victory of MP Elizabeth May and a strong showing in a recent Victoria byelection.
One recent poll put the Greens ahead of the Liberals on Vancouver Island.
On Saturday, Clark visited a house in Oak Bay where she and candidates Ida Chong and Christina Bates had coffee with the McGee family. Clark asked homeowners Tony and Louise — Chong supporters — about their family finances, while promoting the Liberal track record of low income-tax levels.
The McGees’ two daughters, Tessa and Ella, will one day benefit from a planned new Oak Bay high school, which Chong said could be in jeopardy if the NDP win government and freeze capital spending.
Clark praised Chong as a hard worker during her five terms as MLA for Oak Bay-Gordon Head.
Chong is facing Green candidate Andrew Weaver and NDP candidate Jessica Van der Veen. Weaver, a high-profile climate-change academic at the University of Victoria, is seen as his party’s best shot at winning its first seat in the legislature.
Chong tried to portray a vote for Weaver as a vote for an MLA who won’t be part of government and will therefore have difficulty getting provincial funding for local projects.
“Mr. Weaver has already said they’re not going to form government, so are you going to have an ineffective voice for years?” Chong asked in a recent interview.
Weaver said he’s seen a “complete collapse” of Liberal support in the riding.
“It’s clear that people cannot vote Liberal,” he said.
“Ida’s been here a long time. She’s worked hard in the community for a long time. But people have just said it’s time for change, you’ve been here since 1996, thank you for your service and let’s have someone new.”
Greg Kazakoff is also running for the B.C. Conservatives in Oak Bay-Gordon Head and said polling he has seen indicates Conservative support equal to the Greens and it is really a four-way race in the riding.
Clark also spent time Saturday greeting voters on Sidney’s Beacon Avenue with Liberal candidate Stephen P. Roberts.
“This is a riding we can hold,” said Roberts, a former bank executive. “She’s here demonstrating she believes in this community.”
Green candidate Adam Olsen and NDP candidate Gary Holman are also running in Saanich North and the Islands.
Roberts said the riding has a 22-year history of voting Liberal and he’s confident he can hold off the Green and NDP challengers.
Election day is May 14.