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Election Night Report: Vancouver-Fraserview - continued

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Suzanne Anton Milos Tosic
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In which a candidate wins a riding she was meant to lose, as part of an election that never believed its own press

To the general public, it might seem as though elections are all about inspiring messages for the future ("Skills training!"), dire warnings about opponents ("Fact-free!"), and carefully parsed statements about balancing the budget someday, somewhere. To those who run campaigns, that's secondary. The best message in the world is useless if people hearing it don't get off the couch. One experienced strategist says a party can gain up to eight percentage points in an election just through good voter contact. Elections become all about training the candidate, the volunteers, and the paid phone teams on two things: find out who your voters are, then get them to the polls. Efficiently-no campaign these days has endless volunteers or endless dollars.

Efficiency begins by understanding the city and the riding. In 2009, six of Vancouver's 11 ridings went Liberal, capturing Yuppies in Fairview and Kitsilano, high-end older professionals in Dunbar and Kerrisdale, and then the whole southern slope of the city, which doesn't fit the popular clichés of Vancouver. With not a Lululemon-clad jogger or plaid-wearing longboarder in sight, Fraserview is closer in spirit to Abbotsford than Strathcona. As both the NDP and Liberal campaign managers in the riding had carefully noted even before the writ was dropped this spring, this area is one of the most ethnically diverse in the province: 47 percent Chinese, many of them the generation that moved out of the Chinatown ghetto decades ago; 14 percent South Asian (the generation that settled in Vancouver long before Surrey became the go-to); a newly developing cluster of Filipinos; remnants of the German families who first gathered around Fraser; and a mixed remainder. It's older than the rest of the city, and packed with multi-generation families in a chaotic collection of World War II bungalows, Vancouver Specials, and grand new mini-palaces festooned with fake rock and etched-glass doors.

This is not a place where people rush out to buy the New York Times or tune in to the news every night to track the latest twist in politics. "Low-information voters" is how one campaigner described them. Their interest in fracking and pipelines is minimal, but they care deeply about anything that threatens their household security-crime is a big concern; so are education, taxes, and the economy. Fraserview is the B.C. riding that had the highest vote, in numbers, against the HST in the referendum two years ago. "Their faith in the Liberal party to keep taxes low was shaken," said Derrick Harder, Yiu's campaign manager, days before the election. That eye for the dollar shows up federally (Conservative Wai Young is the MP here) and municipally. In most of the rest of the city, Vision Vancouver's Gregor Robertson trounced Anton in the 2011 mayoral race, but here in the southeast, Anton got 6,200 votes. Robertson got only 5,000. Keep reading...

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