The quick and dirty B.C. snap election seems to have caught the so-called fringe candidates by surprise and the upshot is that Powell River-Sunshine Coast will be a straight three-way race between candidates representing the most prominent provincial parties.
Incumbent NDP candidate Nicholas Simons won the riding in 2017 with 50.7 per cent of the vote. Since then, the four-term MLA has taken some flak for the decision to proceed with the Trellis long-term care home project; for Site C and LNG; for ongoing ferries and highway woes; for supportive housing units built where they’re not necessarily wanted – in short, for being part of a government in power. It’s possible that these and other issues could erode some of Simons’ support, but unseating him would require a strong renunciation of the John Horgan government by past NDP voters, which, despite some anger over the election call, does not appear to be trending in the polls.
Tectonic shifts, however, do happen in elections – in 2013, the NDP blew a 17-point lead, and the Liberals are hoping to recreate that magic. Leader Andrew Wilkinson, after pledging last week to eliminate the PST for one year, this week was trying to win back key Metro ridings with promises of a referendum on the municipal police force in Surrey and a commuter-friendly 10-lane Massey bridge project. Horgan countered with a rich grab bag full of targeted freebies.
The Greens are in a unique position, with Leader Sonia Furstenau arguing that the minority NDP government was working well with the cooperation of her party, and that a similar arrangement, presumably with a larger share of Green MLAs, would be the best outcome for an election that should never have been called. It’s a pragmatic pitch and ties in with her fierce denial of Horgan’s claims that the Greens under her leadership somehow posed an obstacle to the NDP’s program.
While the leaders duke it out, both parties challenging the NDP’s hold on Powell River-Sunshine Coast have put up quality candidates.
With a background as a transportation consultant and on the BC Ferry Authority board of directors, Liberal Sandra Stoddart-Hansen can speak with considerable insight on two issues – BC Ferries and Highway 101 – that are near and dear to the hearts of Coast voters. Her rationale for replacing Simons echoes the arguments made in 2017 by her predecessor Mathew Wilson – that Simons has proved to be ineffective at making big things happen in the riding. It didn’t work for Wilson, but it could resonate more now that Simons’ party is in government.
Kim Darwin, who finished only 97 votes behind Wilson in the last election, has the experience of that campaign under her belt and the much fresher Green leadership race, in which she finished third. Darwin says she was enlisted to run again after initially deciding to sit this one out. Her relatively high profile and established support, combined with that of younger voters for whom climate change will be the deciding election issue, could make her a bigger factor than she was in 2017.
It’s interesting to hear three intelligent but very different visions for the Sunshine Coast and we urge everyone to spend the time to find out what each candidate has to say, because this election will be over in a flash.
May the best candidate win.