United left test case?


Stephen Harper was talking global financial turmoil and national health care in Victoria today, but a lot of the chatter in the corridors of the hotel where he spoke was strictly local politics.

In this case, however, the most intriguing local race, for the Saanich-Gulf Islands riding, hints at a direction for national party politics.

Tory incumbent Gary Lunn, the natural resources minister, is up against a Liberal star candidate, Briony Penn and the Greens’ Andrew Lewis. But the NDP’s Julian West stopped dropped out after he faced a barrage of embarrassing publicity over a public nudity incident 12 years ago.

The absence of an NDP contender makes this a sort of accidental test case for what federal politics might look like after a unite-the-left movement—assuming the riding’s New Democrat voters tend to shift to the Liberals.

But Lunn was busy telling reporters, after Harper’s event, that expects to pick up a good share of those NDP votes, pointing out that many B.C. New Democrats are fervently against the Liberals’ Green Shift. “It’s classic Liberal arrogance to say, ‘We’re getting all the NDP vote’,” he fumed.

If Briony does pick off Lunn, though, he might well be the only Harper cabinet minister to fall. And that would surely serve as an object lesson in the benefits of uniting the left-of-centre parties.

Just now, the damage inflicted by splits among left-tilting voters are glaringly obvious in seat projections. Even factoring in the Tories’ recent slide in the polls today, LISPOP has Harper coming back to Ottawa with 142 MPs to the Liberals’ 85 and the NDP’s 31.

The prospect of the Conservatives winning substantially more seats than last election—even if they do no better, and possibly a bit worse, in the popular vote—would surely prompt more centre-left politicos to talk more openly about joining forces. Watch Saanich-Gulf Islands for a sign of what might come.


United left test case?

  1. Quite some time ago, long before the exit of the NDP candidate, some locals in the Saanich-Gulf Islands riding began a web based movement for strategic voting called “Shun Lunn”. Not sure if it is catching on.

    The interesting history of this riding is that Andrew Lewis was a former deputy Leader of the GPC (pre Elizabeth May) and he was quite outspoken in his opposition to May’s detente with Dion. You won’t easily find any of his blog posts on the GPC site as they have shut down the blogging area (once a reliable source for reporters for the occasional nutbar /wingnut commentary – btw I don’t include Andrew’s commentary in that description).

    And even more interesting, it was Briony Penn, a former active GP supporter, who stated at the time that she was influenced or took the lead from May/Dion to jump ship and run for the Libs.

  2. The last Liberal team who actually made the government spent a great deal of time taking up the centre-right that the reform/alliance party had vacated as it took the crazy-train out to the fringes. A dyed in the wool NDPer probably doesn’t see that much to appeal to them in the LPC.

  3. If the Green shift is so unpopular, why is the Green party so high in BC?

  4. Lunn is a big man – if surrounding by midgets – in Harper’s Cabinet…
    backed the AECL loser management against a very competent chair of the Nuclear Watchdog Commission – as I recall…using much the same level of vindictiveness that we imagine Sarah Palin will bring to bear if ever she were to get her hands on the big red button…
    As to Lunn being potentially the only Harper Cabinet Minister – are you forgetting that former (did he actually give up his Senate seat yet?) Senator Michel Fortier is in the fight of his life – and the way that CPC votes are going in Quebec – likely to go down.

  5. The Liberals promised that if elected, they would remove the GST.
    They promised they would end free trade.
    They promise they will enact a carbon tax.

    Greens will vote for Greens. Let the Liberals EARN our votes, not demand them. There was a period where the Alliance and PCs hurt each other, before the Alliance matured and ate the PCs. This is the time when the Greens and the Libs hurt each other before..

  6. I know several Lib’s who are voting NDP and one NDP ‘er who is going crazy cote-swapping with Lib’s back east to vote NDP (he says he has almost a 100 now) and then not changing his vote here. This guy is a real agent provocateur and very funny. I have a strange feeling that election night the numbers are going to all even out as they leave Ontario and as the polling comes out to BC the election call here may just end up deciding how things are and if that is the case goodbye LPC – PS: Axe The Tax! and unite all parties!

  7. If the Green shift is so unpopular, why is the Green party so high in BC?

    Anti-nukes, anti-Nafta,

  8. I don’t think people realize that out West, people often switch between tories and NDP. anything but Liberal, which are seen as a central Canada party out of touch with the West. So it’s not surprising that Lunn would look to gain NDP votes actually.

  9. I don’t live there anymore but this is my home riding and I lived on the Saanich penisnula for over 20 years. As sunny12 points out, it may be counterintuitive but NDP and Conservative votes often switch back and forth in BC. Don’t forget the Liberals are seen as the Bay Street/St James Street crowd and the party of Eastern Canada. (For us British Columbians Eastern Canada means Ontario and Quebec.)

    There is also a resentment among some NDP supporters in Saanich that it was Briony Penn and her Liberals who outed West, the NDP candidate, and forced him to resign. I would not be surprised if many NDP supporters simply stay home rather than voting for Penn.

  10. That said, Saanich-Gulf Islands is a bit of a special case. Lunn is a bit of an odd fit for the riding, particularly given the demographic shifts and development since he first took office. You see a lot of “Jacuzzi Greens” through the peninsula and gulf islands – people who are voting Conservative for economic reasons, but are still largely pro-environment. Gary Lunn is extremely unpopular with the remaining 60% of the local electorate because of oil tankers, nuclear energy in the tar sands, etc. In this case, the opportunity to unseat Lunn will likely lead to a significant amount of strategic voting. Briony Penn is also a strong candidate for the Liberals. Her Green Party roots will appeal to NDP supporters and make it less difficult for Green voters to switch Liberal for one election cycle (as a number of my relatives who live in the riding will be doing).

    As for a test case for a United Left, I’m not so sure. The individual candidates up for election are a large piece of the puzzle for Saanich Gulf-Islands, and the circumstances here would necessarily be reproducible elsewhere.

  11. We don’t need to unite the left. What I’ve been saying since voting splitting was the hot-topic on the right is that preferential (alternative) voting would allow us to keep our multitude of parties, without much need for strategic voting (aka, voting ‘dishonestly’) while electing the candidate with the broadest support in the riding.

    Unlike pure PR, there is essentially no more influence of party backrooms in determining who is elected. It is understandable. And it allows people to vote their conscience. There are a lot of people out there who would love to vote Green, but hate the idea of wasting their vote and electing a conservative.

    For the federal funding, it should be based on number of first-choice votes as well as number of seats held.

  12. I do live in this riding. Briony Penn, the Liberal candidate, would be a terrific representative for our communities, full stop. She has the credentials, the heart, and the integrity. I hope for the first time that we can put party politics aside and vote for the person who CAN WIN this seat and who would be someone we could all be proud to be represented by.

  13. He might not be the ONLY Tory minister to fall. Fortier’s in deep…

Sign in to comment.