Jack Knox: Singh's Island swing a sign of early election

At the very moment Jagmeet Singh began his news conference outside Duncan city hall, a deafening siren wailed from a nearby fire hall.

It was appropriate, in that it sounded like the starting horn for the (unofficial) election campaign.

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Canada isn’t due for a federal election until 2023, but you would never know that from the way the politicians were behaving Thursday. There was NDP leader Singh in the Cowichan Valley, talking about affordable housing while launching a campaign-style swing through Western Canada. There was Justin Trudeau in the Lower Mainland, announcing $10-a-day childcare. There was the prime minister’s justice-minister-turned-foe, Jody Wilson-Raybould, announcing that she would not run again — odd timing, were an election not looming.

Meanwhile, all the parties are busily lining up local candidates.

“There’s been sign after sign that Justin Trudeau is looking for an election,” Singh said. It’s not a sure thing, but the indicators tilt that way. Singh mentioned an August vote. Others say late October.

Why an early call? Because some polls say the Liberals could win the majority government they were denied in 2019. An Ipsos survey conducted for Global News in mid-June gave the Liberals the support of 38 per cent of decided voters across Canada, compared with 26 per cent for the Conservatives, 20 for the NDP, eight for the Bloc Quebecois and seven for the Greens.

Singh’s New Democrats will head into the election holding just 24 of the 338 seats in the House of Commons, but five of the seven on Vancouver Island. The Greens hold the other two — their only remaining seats in Canada now that New Brunswick’s Jenica Atwin has crossed the floor to the Liberals.

Atwin’s dramatic defection laid bare infighting that couldn’t have come at a worse time for the Greens. The future of new leader Annamie Paul remains in doubt. Even if Paul survives a July 20 non-confidence vote, it looks like the party will lurch into the next election bleeding from self-inflicted wounds.

Note that the internal nastiness cost the party a potential candidate in Esquimalt-Saanich-Sooke, where Lisa Gunderson withdrew from the nomination race June 19, stating: “I am concerned that recent events are not consistent with Green values.” Instead of seeking to run to become an MP, Gunderson now has her sights on being elected to the party’s federal council.

Also note that the New Democrats are looking hungrily at Nanaimo-Ladysmith, which they lost to the Greens’ Paul Manly in 2019. School trustee Lisa Marie Barron was chosen in May to run against him. Singh will campaign in Nanaimo on Saturday after appearing in Victoria with MP Laurel Collins today.

Collins, meanwhile, will find herself running against the Liberals’ Nikki Macdonald. The former defeated the latter in the last election, but the Liberals think Macdonald, the daughter of longtime Trudeau 1.0 cabinet minister Donald Macdonald, will fare better once the voters get a chance to know her.

Voters may also expect a sense of deja vu in Saanich-Gulf Islands, where three candidates from 2019 — incumbent Green Elizabeth May, New Democrat Sabina Singh and Conservative David Busch — have been nominated again.

While there were rumours that May, having stepped down as party leader after the last election, would not run as MP again, she was acclaimed the party’s candidate in April. She is currently recovering from knee surgery.

In Esquimalt-Saanich-Sooke, incumbent New Democrat Randall Garrison’s challengers will include Liberal Doug Kobayashi — a former WestShore Chamber of Commerce president and aerospace engineer — and biochemist Harley Gordon for the Greens.

In Cowichan-Malahat-Langford, incumbent New Democrat Alistair MacGregor will once again run against Liberal Blair Herbert. They’ll share a ballot with Conservative Alana DeLong, a Thetis Island resident who served for 14 years as an MLA in Alberta and ran for the B.C. Liberals in 2017.

North Island- Powell River NDP MP Rachel Blaney’s Conservative opponent will be the same as it was in 2019: Port McNeill municipal councillor Shelley Downey. Comox human rights lawyer Jessica Wegg was just announced as the Green candidate.

New Democrat MP Gord Johns is running again in Courtenay-Alberni.

Expect more of the blanks to be filled in soon as the parties gear up for an election that might arrive before the rain.

jknox@timescolonist.com

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