By Jennifer Bllyth/Editor
Victoria riding voters will head to the polls Oct. 19 with a variety of important issues in mind. For some it will be a question of who to vote for, but for others, how best to defeat those they oppose, suggests a political science professor at the University of Victoria.
“First, since Conservative voters have recently been relatively small proportions of the vote, many voters will be trying to decide which opposition party best represents their views and which has the best chance of defeating the Stephen Harper Conservatives,” says Jamie Lawson, who teaches courses on Canadian government, environmental policy, and Canadian political economy.
The Victoria riding, which encompasses all of Oak Bay, along with Victoria and Ten Mile Point in Saanich, will have some unique factors at play, however.
“Unlike many ridings, a major part of that question will turn on the performance of the Greens, with the powerful presence of Elizabeth May and Andrew Weaver so nearby,” Lawson says, suggesting the summer’s drought and wildfires will reinforce arguments about who best represents the ecological position on climate change.
Green voters are socially diverse, Lawson says, noting that while Greens take a more extreme position on some key questions, “socially, it is not clear that leftism in general is the dominant trend in Green leadership or Green voters.
“The Greens have certainly been a force in these prosperous places of town where it is hard to find many New Democrats, or otherwise socialist thinking for example,” he says.
“So this is one place where there is quite likely to be a fight between Greens and NDP, particularly because Joanne Roberts is relatively well-known and well-liked, and because Murray Rankin satisfies many of the same voters on environmental grounds, but has an additional base with government workers, and left-leaners on social grounds,” Lawson says.
Displeasure with the Conservatives may also lead some opposition party supporters to vote for whatever opposition party they think has the best chance to defeat Harper.
The economy will also be crucial.
“With the weak economy on so many minds, some voters, especially those on fixed incomes, will be concerned about both reviving the economy and the difficult place lower interest rates put them in.
“Because the government has emphasized a balanced budget, only the low-interest, low-dollar policy of the Bank of Canada is acting to stimulate the economy. Here the large number of retirees in the Victoria area will play a role,” Lawson says.
And while he says retirees are most likely to vote Conservative country-wide, in part because of the perception of some that the Conservatives are the best economic managers, “the drop in the dollar has stimulated a strong tourism year in town, and it will be harder to convince people that economic prosperity equals resource extraction, especially given the fear of impacts of a potential oil spill offshore on the tourist trade and fisheries.”
At the same time, key reasons for retiring to Victoria are typically the weather and natural surroundings, so Victoria retirees will likely be disproportionately concerned with nature, offset somewhat by those who have retired from the oil, gas and resource sectors.
How the federals Liberals will fare is a little more of an unknown, depending on factors such as the economy and how the campaign numbers evolve.
“The Liberals could consolidate around their leader, who has begun to impress many Liberal supporters who were sitting on the fence.
“Or they could decide, if things start to look like the Conservatives are gaining, that the trendlines are leading towards NDP as the only possible alternative, and the NDP suits them better than four more years of Conservative rule,” Lawson says.
Lawson doesn’t see the Conservatives growing their support in the Victoria riding during this election.
“They have a base in military circles, and in retirees who are worried about fixed incomes in an uncertain economy,” he says. “I think if Esquimalt were in the riding, they would have a more significant role, and if the environment weren’t so important to people, they would be more important in Oak Bay and other prosperous parts of town.”
And how might the longer campaign – virtually double the standard length of about 37 days – affect the Victoria riding?
“The key to me is that longer campaigns mean more money can be spent,” Lawson says.
While overall, that favours the Conservatives, their reduced chances here may lead them to spend money elsewhere.
At the same time, “I think Murray Rankin would be considered cabinet material for the NDP, and they would divert funds to protect him,” he notes.
Additionally, because “this is in a priority region for the Greens … I would expect them to divert more funds for Joanne Roberts. Because the Greens have done well in prosperous parts of town, this may exaggerate the benefit to the Greens.”
And, while some are suggesting people will lose interest over such a long campaign, that may not be the case here in Oak Bay.
Because locals are inclined to stay close to home in the summer, “they may not be so tuned out during the summer months as people may be elsewhere,” Lawson suggests.