In Oak Bay-Gordon Head riding, B.C. Liberals readying for a fight

The B.C. Liberal Party has selected Roxanne Helme, a lawyer and community volunteer, to represent Oak Bay-Gordon Head, where incumbent and former leader of the provincial Green Party Andrew Weaver has decided not to run again.

Roxanne Helme won the nomination Monday in a vote conducted by mail-in ballot. She was running against Martin Cownden, who owns Chef on the Run.

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Helme said she was excited to be a part of the B.C. Liberal team. “I can’t wait to get to work earning the support of the residents of Oak Bay-Gordon Head.”

Liberal Leader Andrew Wilkinson said Helme, a former member of the Victoria-Esquimalt police board, the board of the Canadian College of Performing Arts and the leadership council of the Coalition to End Homelessness, has “deep roots and a track record of leadership in Oak Bay-Gordon Head.”

Four parties have claimed the riding over the past 40 years. Weaver has held the seat for two terms since being elected in 2013. Prior to his election, Liberal Ida Chong represented the riding for four consecutive terms from 1996 to 2013. MLAs from the B.C. NDP and B.C. Social Credit Party have also held the seat.

The riding is a “kind of political chameleon,” said David Black, who teaches political communication at Royal Roads University.

“It does not represent a safe seat for any party. It remains a seat more open and available than one might think.”

Black said the swing nature of the riding is surprising given Oak Bay’s reputation as a quiet, comfortable and affluent community.

He said opinion polls show strong public support for the B.C. NDP’s handling of the COVID-19 pandemic, which could play out in the party’s favour.

The next provincial election is scheduled for Oct. 16, 2021, but the B.C. Liberal Party is preparing for the possibility of an election as early as this fall, said Emile Scheffel, the party’s executive director. Scheffel said the riding has the potential to be a tight, three-way race between his party, the Greens and the NDP.

“In a world where the B.C. Liberals in the last election were only a couple of seats away from potentially forming the government, obviously, Oak Bay-Gordon Head will be a pretty high priority and a significant focus for us,” he said.

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