Saturday, February 24, 2007

Con nom battle in Vancouver Island North

A very interesting battle for the Conservative nomination is shaping-up in my old stomping grounds of Vancouver Island North, where our former veteran Conservative MP, defeated last year by the NDP's Catherine Bell (no, not the one from JAG), will be going for his party's nomination against his former campaign manager and riding president.

John Duncan was our MP in VIN from 1993 to 2006 under a rainbow of party names, from Reform to Conservative and everything in between. If you haven't heard of him don't feel bad, it's because he didn't do much to distinguish himself while in office, save an early flip-flop by being one of the first Reformers to opt back into the “gold-plated MP pension plan” he'd recently been decrying. I'm also told he was known as one of the best hecklers in the House of Commons.

For some reason considered potential cabinet material in a future Conservative government (heck, they made Gary Lunn a minister so who knows), after a near-loss in 2004 Johnny narrowly lost to the NDP's Catherine Bell in 2006. Since his heartbreaking loss on the verge of cabinet fame and fortune, Duncan has been toiling away on the taxpayer dime in the DFO in Ottawa.

Now, though, he's hankering for a rematch. Interestingly though he has a challenger for the Con nomination, and it's someone he knows well: Dave Jackson. A local businessman and former military man, Jackson also wants the Conservative nod. And his party roots are deep too. He was the Conservative riding association president for eight years, and was campaign manager for Duncan's last four campaigns.

Whomever wins the nod though will have a tough battle against the incumbent, the NDP's Bell. There's a strong base of both social activists and union supporters in the riding, and they've got a lot of organizational muscle. Catherine also doesn't seem to have disappeared to the extent John would between elections. A huge crowd came out when she had Ed Broadbent in town recently to discuss electoral reform.

Duncan's big wins over the years were built on the old reform protest coalition, and when that evaporated after the PC/Alliance merger his bare win in 2004 was the result. But as long as Duncan or Jackson still have the old Socred/BC Liberal riding machine behind them, it will be a tight race.

As for the federal Liberals, well, let's just say it's a long shot. I think we took the riding once during the Trudeaumania years, and things were trending well in 2004 until the roof caved in back in Ottawa. The riding is becoming more urban though, with retirees from Eastern Canada moving to local communities, and anything is possible. I've not heard of any candidates for the Liberal nomination coming forward so far, but if you're interested let me know. The right candidate with the right campaign could really make some waves.

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Miles Lunn said...

I suspect it is going to be another close battle between the NDP and Conservatives. The northern part of the riding and smaller communities are very NDP, but larger communities like Comox have a lot of retirees and although many are from Eastern Canada, older people tend to be more conservative than younger people, so I doubt the Liberals win the riding. I think our best chance for gains on Vancouver Island is Victoria and maybe if we are really lucky, there is Saanich-Gulf Islands. Rural Vancouver Island seems just too polarized. In the urban areas we are able to grab a large chunk of both those who vote NDP provincially and those who vote BC Liberal provincially whereas in VIN it seems most who go BC Liberal go Conservative and most who go BC NDP go NDP.

A BCer in Toronto said...

Comox has been one of the few (compatively speaking) bright spots for the Libs, i think we even won a few polls there in 04. And from what I'm hearing a lot of retirees are pretty pissed off over the income trust flip-flop.

Anyway, yeah, a lot of stars would need to align for a Liberal win in VIN. Still, got to keep the hope alive.

I haven't heard any names in Victoria (besides hopefully false rumours of a David Anderson comeback) but we could retake that one. And SGI may be a possibility, if it doesn't go green...Either way I'd love to see Lunn go down. Otherwise, as usual for the Fed Libs in BC it's all about the Lower Mainland.

ottlib said...

If it were THAT Catherine Bell I might have become an NDP supporter.

Miles Lunn said...

It is true Comox is the strongest part for the federal Liberals, but it is also a pretty conservative area considering the BC Liberals got 56% in Comox. In fact the reason the media mistakenly called Stan Hagen defeated in the 2005 provincial election is the Comox polls were the last to come in and that was what saved him from defeat. Now true not all BC Liberals go Conservative federally, after all if this were the case Richmond, the two North shore ridings, Vancouver-Quadra, and Vancouver South would all have gone conservative last federal election. But my point is the Liberals there appear to be mostly Blue Liberals as opposed to Progressive ones.

Sitcom said...

Just a thought on what's going down. I voted NDP Provincially in the last election and, though my political leanings are to the center, I voted for Duncan Federally.

The NDP pulled out their "Stephen Harper is Gordon Campbell" mantra, and lots of us bought it. Now that people have got a look at the real Harper that one is not going to fly again.

I think people are also frustrated at not having any voice in Ottawa. Ms. Bell is standing strong for the huge North Island issues of electoral reform and child care. Whoopee! In a party of 29 that's the best portfolio she could get?

I did like the Federal candidate in the last election, but I am voting to keep Toronto Jack Layton out of Island North. He's no Tommy Douglas.

Zoe said...

John Duncan is the Conservative nominee for the next Federal election.
I attended a few all candidates meetings during the last 2 election campaigns and found Ms. Bell to be woefully ignorant on many issues. Surprisingly, she was no better the second time around.
I actually called her office regarding a family matter and was given incorrect information. Went to another MP who was extremely helpful and actually had the relevant department call me.
Ms. Bell has done nothing for the riding and only seems to able to utter things from the script given her by Jack Layton.
Having known numerous elected officials over a span of many years she ranks at the bottom, right beside Howie McDairmid. It will be a sad day for the riding if she wins again.