The incumbent MP for Esquimalt—Saanich—Sooke questions the validity of local polling and dismisses suggestions that growing polarization will hurt the federal New Democrats in the upcoming federal election.
This in the wake of his party losing its seat in May’s byelection in its traditional stronghold of Nanaimo and recent polls showing his Esquimalt-Saanich-Sooke riding a ‘toss-up’
“Of course, I like it better than if it were to say something else, but I just don’t think they have any validity at all,” said Randall Garrison during an interview last week, when asked about forecasting from 338canada.com. “They are just projecting national figures on local ridings.”
Green Party candidate David Merner was driving to Sooke from his office in Esquimalt and the first indication of the election were signs – all from the Green Party. No other party had signs up until the next day.
“We have a really good shot of winning here,” mused Merner.
The Greens received a boost last May when the party won the Nanaimo-Ladysmith byelection, and, more importantly, where the NDP dropped to third place. It was the first time in years the riding, located in a basin of huge labour support, flipped.
“We looked at that and said, ‘If we can win in Ladysmith then we can certainly win here,’” Merner said.
But Garrison said that’s not what he or his volunteers are seeing when door-knocking or telephoning voters.
“We don’t have any evidence of drifting NDP support or any big surge in Green support,” said Garrison who was first elected in 2011 and won the riding by more than 5,200 votes in 2011. “They targeted us [in the last election] and finished third.”
National figures show the New Democrats trailing behind the federal Liberals (37.5), federal Conservatives 34 per cent), and the Greens (10.8), with 8.4 per cent, according to a Mainstreet Research poll produced between Sept. 6 and 8.
Dropping poll numbers have inspired the prediction that the NDP will suffer the fate of social democratic parties in Germany, France and other European countries, where they have bled support for decades, disappearing almost entirely in some cases, as voters increasingly divide into broadly defined camps, populists and progressives.
“I would choose just other countries to look at. If you look at Portugal, if you look at Spain, if you look at Italy, you have seen a resurgence of social democratic parties,” said Garrison.
When asked about the state of the local race, Garrison said he has spent the summer focusing on his duties as MP.
Garrison said his campaign will focus on ways to ensure shared prosperity among other issues. While the strong state of the economy under the leadership of the provincial New Democrats won’t hurt, housing affordability remains an important issue for riding residents, said Garrison.
“At the end of the month, it’s very hard to make ends meet,” he said. “This is a very expensive place to live.”
Meanwhile, climate change is a big issue with residents in the riding, said Merner, who ran as a Liberal in 2015.
“Climate change is a critical issue. I hear it on the doorsteps everyday. That’s going to affect how people vote,” he said.