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There were cheers this morning at a packed Marpole Neighbourhood House on the south side of town where media and community members had gathered to bear witness to former justice minister and attorney general Jody Wilson-Raybould’s next steps.
Judging by the reaction, they weren’t disappointed.
The former Liberal MP will seek re-election in her current riding of Vancouver Granville, and will do so as an independent.
“It won’t be easy,” she admitted, before calling the October 21 election a “referendum on how we can do politics differently.”
That’s of course a nod to how the last five months have gone for Wilson-Raybould, who was removed from her post as justice minister and attorney general after what she called “inappropriate pressure” in a case involving Montreal-based infrastructure giant SNC-Lavalin.
Since then, she and former minister of health Jane Philpott (who resigned in support of Wilson-Raybould) were kicked out of the Liberal caucus. The duo ended up saying no to Green Party leader Elizabeth May, who asked them to join her party repeatedly.
But while Wilson-Raybould termed herself “not a party person,” she did admit that the Green party were “natural and necessary allies” for her, and called climate change the “issue of our time.”
And there were words aimed directly at voters in Vancouver Granville: “We need to make sure those elected by constituents are making the decisions,” she said, in a nod toward the backroom politics at play in the SNC-Lavalin dispute.
She also called the idea of proportional representation—which the Liberal government abandoned shortly after campaigning on electoral reform—“absolutely worth considering.” And added, “a lot of people in our riding were very disappointed about not going forward with democratic reform.”
But will that—along with her reputation in the riding and beyond—be enough to encourage Vancouver Granville voters to elect her as an independent?
The riding itself is massive, as it extends from Southwest Marine Drive in the south all the way to 2nd Avenue in the north. That counts for all or significant portions of ’hoods like Kerrisdale, Marpole, South Cambie, Fairview and Little Mountain. In other words, it’s hard to accurately slap a label on it.
Yes, there will be a fair amount of wealthy people, as most of it lies on the west side. But there will be residents of all walks of life in a district that big.
It’s a new constituency, created in 2012, so the only real evidence we have to drawn upon is Wilson-Raybould’s convincing win in 2015 (she garnered almost 44 percent of the vote). Though estimates created for the 2011 election using the 2012 boundaries found that the Conservatives would have won that contest with 35 percent of the vote.
The next election will undoubtedly be much tougher for the Liberals, who are currently behind the Conservatives in recent polls.
All that probably means that the Liberals are dead in the water in Vancouver Granville. Expect Wilson-Raybould’s main challenge to come from the Conservative Party of Canada.
The major parties haven’t yet named candidates for the riding, but it’s hard to see any of them dialling up a household name like Wilson-Raybould’s.
It’ll no doubt be a vicious campaign in the riding (and across the country) but if Wilson-Raybould can siphon off votes from her former party while framing herself as the choice for any voters leaning left, we like her chances.
B.C. hasn’t had an independent MP since former Alliance candidate Chuck Cadman won Surrey North in 2004.