Opinion: Federal riding suddenly wide open

Member of Parliament Pamela Goldsmith-Jones’ bombshell announcement Wednesday that she won’t be seeking re-election in October is not good news for the Liberal party in West Vancouver-Sunshine Coast-Sea to Sky Country.

Her stated reason for the decision is to spend time closer to home, particularly with her parents. No matter how truthful that is, the optics of her announcement coming two months after she confirmed her candidacy will dog the party. She can deny and deny, but voters will wonder if she packed it in because she was disaffected over the SNC-Lavalin debacle or bolted out of fear she could lose the seat. Such is politics.

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Goldsmith-Jones was a strong incumbent. The former West Vancouver mayor appeared to have solid support in her own backyard – where it counted most numerically – and was likable, approachable, professional and hardworking. She was not a heavy hitter but she hadn’t broken any windows either, despite having to wear some unpopular decisions for the team. For the Liberals, finding a replacement candidate of similar stature with five months to go before the election will be a challenge.

The other parties, meanwhile, are starting to line up their contenders.

On Sunday, the Conservatives elected Gabrielle Loren, a chartered accountant and former president of the West Vancouver Chamber of Commerce.

In a May 7 interview with Pique Newsmagazine, Loren talked about bringing “common sense” to the table (an oldie but goodie for novice politicians) and said she decided to run for the Conservatives because it was the party that most closely aligned with her views on the economy. She conceded that she would have to “push them a little more on the environment,” given her West Coast pedigree.

The Greens have set a May 15 deadline for nominations. The only candidate to step forward so far is Dana Taylor, a former North Vancouver city councillor who is retiring June 30 after 29 years as executive vice president of the Mechanical Contractors Association of B.C.

Taylor ran for the Greens provincially in West Vancouver-Sea to Sky in 2017 and received 29 per cent of the vote, which the party says was “the highest outcome for any provincial Green candidate other than the three who were successfully elected” that year. He has reportedly been spending time on the Sunshine Coast, attending Seedy Saturday and Earth Day.

The NDP has yet to field a candidate.

While the Liberals regroup, expect the other parties to get rambunctiously into the spirit of the election. The riding is suddenly wide open and everyone knows it.

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