COLUMN: 2008: Election year

As 2008 dawns, there is a reasonable chance that there will be not one, but two elections before the year ends.

There will definitely be municipal elections in November – on Nov. 15 to be exact. There is also a good chance that there will be a federal election as well. Whether that occurs depends on the players in Ottawa, but it seems likely the Liberals will try to defeat the minority Conservative government with the hope that voters will install the “Natural Governing Party” back in power.

Whether the NDP and Bloc Quebecois agree with that strategy remains to be seen. No party wants to go into election mode unless its poll numbers are good, and at this point in time, it appears there would be another minority government if an election was called.

If there is a federal election, it will be interesting to see what changes, if any, occur in the five local ridings. Probably the two safest seats are held by Conservatives Russ Hiebert in South Surrey-White Rock-Cloverdale and John Cummins in Delta-Richmond East. Both would likely score easy wins.

Hiebert’s profile got a boost at the end of 2007, as a government member of the Commons ethics committee which was hearing testimony from Karlheinz Schreiber and Brian Mulroney.

Cummins has been a consistent breath of fresh air in Ottawa. He isn’t afraid to voice opinions that are at odds with those held by his government, staying true to his Reform background, yet he remains a supporter of his party.

His careful and detailed perusal of the Tsawwassen treaty shows that he is an MP who takes his job seriously. It would have been nice to hear such a detailed analysis from at least one member of the B.C. legislature, which recently passed the treaty.

The third Conservative from this area, Nina Grewal in Fleetwood-Port Kells, has been all but invisible. While she is not a high-profile MP, she has rarely been heard from either locally or in Ottawa. This complaint was aired against her in the 2006 election campaign, but little has changed since then.

She may have trouble holding her seat, if the Liberals or NDP are able to mount an effective challenge.

Sukh Dhaliwal, the Liberal MP for Newton-North Delta who was first elected in 2006, has had a higher profile and seems to be finding his feet in Ottawa. He too is on the ethics committee.

He only won the seat by a narrow margin, and all indications are there will be a close three-way race in the riding next time around. However, incumbency always has advantages.

The fifth local seat, Surrey-North, will be a fascinating race when an election is called. Incumbent NDP MP Penny Priddy is a popular politician, the first person ever to serve on Surrey school board, Surrey council, in the provincial legislature and now in Ottawa.

She will be running against Dona Cadman, a personal friend of hers who is the widow of former MP Chuck Cadman. Chuck Cadman had a very high profile in the community beginning after the tragic death of his son Jesse. He was first elected as a Reformer and finally was elected as a well-respected and much-loved independent in 2004, in one of the most fascinating federal election races ever. He died of cancer in 2005.

The Surrey-North contest won’t be nasty – both women are above-the-fray types of people – but it will be very interesting.

Name recognition will help both of them. Perhaps the biggest determinant in who finally wins will be who emerges as the Liberal candidate.

As is always the case, the election of MPs is largely influenced by national issues and the party leaders. Far more people vote for the party than the person.

However, given that three of the five local races are likely to be fairly close contests, the candidates’ profile, achievements and personalities will play a major role in the final result.


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