New Democrats make push in opponents' ridings in the final days of B.C. election

New Democrat Leader John Horgan is campaigning in ridings traditionally held by the B.C. Liberals in the waning days of the provincial election.

Horgan said people are seeing the NDP differently after the past 3 1/2 years in government because the party has shown it can balance the books and spur economic growth.

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The NDP campaign plan on Wednesday had stops in Langley, Richmond and Abbotsford, ridings not traditionally New Democrat territory, Horgan said.

“You don’t own votes, you have to earn votes and that’s what we’re trying to do during this campaign.”

The NDP has also made a push in Green Leader Sonia Furstenau’s Cowichan Valley riding, where federal NDP Leader Jagmeet Singh recently visited.

Campaigning in her own riding on Wednesday, Furstenau said the Greens have momentum, citing a recent record the party set for donations.

“If the NDP are frightened by this, then they should be looking at their own policies and their own platform and recognizing why they aren’t appealing to people right now and why we are.”

Furstenau said she would be spending much of the remaining days before Saturday’s vote campaigning in her riding.

She criticized the NDP for not committing to freeze operational funding for provincial school districts that are losing students who haven’t returned to classes because of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Furstenau said she spoke to NDP Education Minister Rob Fleming before the election about the issue of funding districts per student and asked him to protect the operational funding grants.

Districts have been given one amount for students in class, another for those getting remote learning and nothing for those students who opted out of school, she said.

“COVID-19 has complicated the challenges that already existed in our public education system and has added new stresses. While some resources have been put in place, not enough has been done to address the fears and challenges in our system.”

Liberal Leader Andrew Wilkinson stopped in Delta, where he repeated his promises to build a 10-lane bridge to replace the aging Massey Tunnel and hire 200 more police officers for the province.

Prof. Sanjay Jeram, who teaches political science at Simon Fraser University, said the campaign has been predictable.

“This hasn’t really been a particularly exciting campaign with a lot of surprises.”

He said the NDP strategy in the last few days before the vote is not to rock the boat, while continuing to use specific messaging about the legacy of the former Liberal government.

He said the NDP will need to win tight races in Metro Vancouver if it hopes to form a majority government, areas where Horgan has been campaigning.

“I’m not surprised these are the places he’s going,” Jeram said.

He said Furstenau’s campaign has been impressive in terms of her own personal candour and how she connected with people in the TV debate.

“I think that was definitely a win for her. I just don’t think they had enough time with her as leader to really define policy issues that could speak to a broader section of the electorate.”

Furstenau was elected the party’s leader just a week before the election was called.

Jeram said he thought the promise by the Liberals to open the car insurance market to free enterprise while allowing the Insurance Corporation of B.C. to continue operating would have been a bigger issue, but it didn’t take on the life that the party wanted.

“I’m not sure what other rabbits in the hat they have, other than to try to galvanize their base at this point and make sure they can get back the voters they lost to the NDP.”

Wilkinson said Wednesday that the Liberal car insurance proposal is much better for young people who face an annual bill of $5,000 to $7,000.

“It often makes it impossible to work or impossible to go to school. Let’s look out for those young people, make sure they’ve got an affordable way of life, make sure they have affordable auto insurance.”

This report by The Canadian Press was first published Oct. 21, 2020.

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