B.C. Liberals name candidate for hotly contested Courtenay-Comox riding

The B.C. Liberal Party has chosen Brennan Day, an entrepreneur with experience in the energy sector, to represent the party in the Courtenay-Comox riding, where the NDP clinched a crucial win in the 2017 election by less than 200 votes.

The final count in the riding tipped the balance of power in 2017, leaving the B.C. Liberals with 43 seats — one shy of the minimum required for a majority government. The NDP, which had 41 seats, joined with the three Green MLAs to form the current minority government.

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Day, who grew up in the Comox Valley, works in management at Hyland Precast, a concrete supplier, in Cumberland. He has worked for several engineering and energy companies in the Comox Valley, Calgary and Kazakhstan.

He said it was an honour to be nominated in Courtenay-Comox, “a riding that will be watched from throughout the province.”

“As we prepare for an election that the NDP could trigger as early as this fall, I can’t wait to start meeting constituents and getting their feedback on how we can kickstart B.C.’s economic recovery.”

B.C. Liberal Leader Andrew Wilkinson welcomed Day to the party.

“Brennan brings a wealth of experience and knowledge that will be crucial to driving economic prosperity and opportunity in B.C.”

The Courtenay-Comox riding was contested for the first time in 2017, after electoral boundaries were adjusted in 2015. New Democrat Ronna-Rae Leonard came out ahead by just nine votes on election night. A little more than 2,000 absentee ballots were later counted to tip the scales slightly further in Leonard’s favour. Leonard beat Liberal candidate Jim Benninger, a Canadian Armed Forces veteran, by 189 votes after all ballots were counted.

Most of what used to be the Comox Valley riding now falls under Courtenay-Comox. The B.C. Liberals held the Comox Valley seat from 2001 to 2017, following a decade of NDP representation.

David Black, a political scientist who works at Royal Roads University, said the riding is a bellwether with both its current and previous populations.

“We have here a kind of political barometer for where partisan opinion is in the province,” Black said, adding that most polls are showing the NDP with a 10 to 15 point lead right now in the province.

Black said that the departure of former B.C. Green leader Andrew Weaver from the party could weaken the party’s voter base, and lead to the redistribute some of the roughly 5,000 votes cast for the party in 2017.

If voters continue to show support for the NDP’s handling of the pandemic, “the Green vote might well bend in the NDP’s direction,” Black said.

Emile Scheffel, executive director of the B.C. Liberal Party, noted his party lost the riding by less than the number of votes cast for the B.C. Conservatives, “which suggests a split in the free enterprise vote, as we think of it, helped to deliver that riding to the NDP.”

“So we are very optimistic that with a great candidate like Brennan Day and with a lot of hard work, and hearing out the concerns of voters in the Comox Valley that we have a really good shot at winning the riding back,” Scheffel said.

The next provincial election is scheduled for Oct. 16, 2021, but it could take place earlier if the government decides to call a vote or loses the confidence of the legislative assembly. Premier John Horgan hasn’t ruled out the possibility of holding an election as early as this fall.

regan-elliott@timescolonist.com

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