B.C. Liberals gain new blood with Suzanne Anton and other nomination candidates
About a year after Suzanne Anton launched her mayoral bid with the Non-Partisan Association, the former city councillor is in a tough fight for a B.C. Liberal nomination.
Anton is running against former party president Andrew Wilkinson in Vancouver-Quilchena, where current MLA Colin Hansen has announced he will not seek reelection. Wilkinson, a lawyer who was also trained as a medical doctor, is a former president of the B.C. Civil Liberties Association. He’s a Rhodes scholar and used to be one of former premier Gordon Campbell’s closest advisers.
“I think it’s safe to say that when I left municipal politics, I did not think that my political career was over,” Anton told the Georgia Straight of her decision to run. “The B.C. Liberals are the right fit for me in terms of my belief in their good job in running the province.”
According to B.C. Liberal Party spokesperson Sam Oliphant, a total of 29 candidates have been nominated around the province so far, with another three or four expected to be confirmed before the party’s convention at the end of October.
“We’ve had a lot of interest in a number of ridings,” he told the Georgia Straight by phone, noting that four candidates are seeking the nomination in Penticton.
Anton is the sort of candidate that political observer Hamish Telford believes the party will be looking to attract as it finalizes its slate for the election next spring.
“These are political animals who lost and are sort of looking around for a political alternative, a new vehicle, to fulfill their political ambition,” Telford, who heads the political science department at the University of the Fraser Valley, said in a phone interview.
In fact, Anton may not be the only former NPA candidate considering a run in provincial politics. Another contender from the November 2011 municipal election, Gabby Kalaw, suggested in a phone interview that he hasn’t ruled out making a provincial bid.
“People have tossed it around,” he said when asked if he had considered running for the B.C. Liberals. “I don’t know,” he continued. “Let’s see what’s needed.”
He noted that “people have suggested to me that I should and that they would support me.”
Telford believes the B.C. Liberal Party’s challenge will be recruiting candidates that can appeal to more progressive voters, following the recent in-fighting that has plagued the B.C. Conservatives.
“There was so much focus in the first half of the year on the right side of the party, in trying to out-Conservative the Conservativeness, I think this caused some progressives to leave the Liberal party, particularly women,” he commented. “And so she [Premier Christy Clark] is going to have to, I think, focus on that.…For the whole year, she allowed the NDP to sort of slide into the middle and occupy that large swath of political territory. She’s got to try to budge back in and get some of that ground back.”
The Liberals are also recruiting candidates following a string of high-profile resignations of cabinet ministers, and polls that place them far behind the NDP, noted Telford. An October 12 poll by Angus Reid put support for the B.C. Liberals at 26 percent, while 49 percent of decided voters said they would support the NDP in a provincial election.
Oliphant maintained that the recent resignations haven’t impacted the party’s ability to attract candidates. “I think what a lot of people are looking at right now is a party that has an opportunity to bring in some fresh faces, some new blood, and a lot of candidates are taking up that opportunity,” he said.
Anton also remains confident the polling numbers won’t translate into disappointing results at the ballot boxes next spring.
“It’s a long time before the election still,” she noted. “They just need to turn them around on the 14th of May, and I believe that that will happen.”