The Straight slate for the 2011 federal election
The future of Canada will be determined on Monday (May 2) when voters across the country elect the next federal government. In B.C., polling stations are open from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m.
We’ve prepared a guide to voting in ridings across the Lower Mainland. The recommendations are based on the candidates’ experience and their parties’ policies.
We feel that the Conservative government should not be reelected because Prime Minister Stephen Harper has not demonstrated sufficient character to lead the country. We could describe the litany of outrages, but there isn’t nearly enough room in this space to outline all of them. He has disrupted parliamentary committees, undermined our democracy, sent kids overseas to be killed in a futile war, and paid little heed to climate change, to mention a few. He’s creating a meaner Canada, and we hope voters come to their senses and throw him out of office.
Libby Davies (NDP)
These days, politician has become a dirty word—to the point where the federal Liberals even took out television ads deriding Layton and Harper as “career” politicians. Well, Libby Davies is a career politician, and a damn good one. First elected to Parliament in 1997, she has led efforts in the House of Commons to create a national housing strategy, only to be stymied by the Conservatives. She played a critical role in persuading a former Liberal government to adopt a more humane approach to dealing with drug addiction, which led to the creation of Canada’s first supervised-injection site in her riding.
A recent study in the Lancet, a prestigious medical journal, revealed that this facility, known as Insite, has reduced drug-overdose deaths by 35 percent. The Conservatives want to shut it down, which would likely result in more drug addicts dying in Vancouver. Davies needs to be in Parliament to fight back with all of her experience, intellect, and courage.
Speaking of courage, Davies has also taken a lot of flak for being one of the very, very few politicians to call for the reform of laws criminalizing the sex trade. This came after she looked at the evidence. In light of the impact that the Robert Pickton murders have had on our city, it’s stunning that other elected officials haven’t followed her lead.
She has also publicly stood up for U.S. war resister Rodney Watson, who is living in sanctuary in First United Church at the corner of Hastings and Gore streets. The Conservatives want him deported because he doesn’t want to kill people. It’s textbook Libby Davies: see an injustice, let the underdog know you’re on his or her side, and scream from the rooftops about how outrageous the government’s actions have been. Send her back to Ottawa.
Adriane Carr (Green)
This riding includes the downtown core as well as parts of the city’s West Side. The voters tend to be environmentally inclined and somewhat upscale in areas like Yaletown and along Fairview Slopes. They’re ideally suited ideologically to elect the first Green candidate to Parliament. As the federal party’s deputy leader and former B.C. Green leader, Adriane Carr has paid her dues and deserves a chance to bring her message to the House of Commons.
The world is on the brink of an environmental catastrophe, and there needs to be a greener presence in Ottawa, particularly if Harper wins. Carr spent many years in the trenches with her former colleagues at the Wilderness Committee, saving significant tracts of old-growth forests. She proved she could get things done. She is articulate, knowledgeable, and can go against the grain.
The incumbent Liberal, Hedy Fry, always seems to win with huge majorities. It’s hard to imagine her losing to her Conservative opponent, Jennifer Clarke, but anything is possible. The NDP candidate, antipoverty activist Karen Shillington, previously ran as a Green, but she has only lived in the riding for two years. She’s not ready for Parliament, which is the political big leagues.
Some might say that a vote for Carr is a vote for Clarke, because it will help the Conservatives in a close race. But none of the major parties, including the NDP, are making the environment a major issue in this election campaign. They’re sticking to bread-and-butter topics that will win them votes. Someone has to stand up for the planet. Carr is the best Green candidate to deliver in this area.
Joyce Murray (Liberal)
Despite the NDP’s rapid rise in the national polls, the tony West Side riding of Vancouver Quadra is really a two-woman battle between the incumbent, Joyce Murray, and Conservative Deborah Meredith, who teaches at the UBC Sauder School of Business. In a 2008 by-election, Murray won by only 151 votes. With the Liberals falling in the national polls, this seat could be taken by the Conservatives if the anti-Harper vote splits more evenly in this election between the Liberals, NDP, and Greens.
Murray came under a lot of criticism as the minister of water, air, and land protection in Gordon Campbell’s first B.C. Liberal government. However, she has rebounded from those years to become a hardworking MP with a keen interest in the environment and food security. Murray introduced a private member’s bill to ban oil tankers from Dixon Entrance, Hecate Strait, and Queen Charlotte Sound, which are home to numerous marine mammals. She is also one of the most knowledgeable federal politicians in the region when it comes to climate change.
The Conservatives, on the other hand, have hampered international progress to address a warming planet. Meredith has been a big fan of Harper’s law-and-order initiatives, which will download prison-building costs onto the provincial government. The NDP candidate, Victor Elkins, has lots going for him. He’s a foster parent. He works in the cardiac-care program at B.C. Children’s Hospital. He’s also the equity vice president at the Canadian Labour Congress for LGBT workers. But he can’t stop Harper’s candidate in this riding. Nor can the Greens’ Laura-Leah Shaw, who is a real-estate agent. The only way to defeat Meredith is to vote for Murray.
Don Davies (NDP)
When you see Jack Layton having such great success on the federal campaign trail, give some of the credit to the humble, hardworking incumbent politician who represented Vancouver Kingsway in the last Parliament. As the NDP’s public-safety critic, Don Davies had a difficult task. The Conservatives were intent on making themselves look as tough as possible on crime, and painting their opponents as a bunch of wimps. Davies, a lawyer, fired back that the Harper government hadn’t provided enough resources to law-enforcement agencies and didn’t create a single police-officer position in the federal budget.
Davies also played a leading role in holding the Conservatives to account for the billion-dollar G20 security fiasco in Toronto, where scores of peaceful demonstrators were arrested. He has drawn attention to the federal government’s decision to cut funding to a Vancouver aboriginal youth outreach centre, linking this to Harper’s unwillingness to invest in crime prevention.
In addition, Davies has been a strong advocate for immigrants, highlighting the plight of temporary foreign workers and the mean-spirited move against family reunification.
Liberal candidate Wendy Yuan, a businesswoman, is running against Davies for a second time. It’s really a two-person race, though the NDP is clearly in the preferred position, given its standing in recent election polls in B.C. Yuan has an environmental bent, having backed Stéphane Dion’s Liberal leadership candidacy in 2006. Her first language is Mandarin, which gives her a communications advantage with first-generation immigrants from mainland China. She is focusing her campaign on the economy and the federal Liberals’ “Canadian Learning Passport”, which will provide a maximum of $6,000 in postsecondary funding to low-income students.
The Conservative candidate, Trang Nguyen, is a Vietnamese-Canadian entrepreneur. The Communist Party of Canada candidate, Kimball Cariou, is active in the peace movement and is editor of the People’s Voice. He’s also a dedicated social activist, but it would take a miracle for him to get elected. The Green candidate, real-estate agent Louise Boutin, cochairs the programs committee at the Kensington Community Centre.
Ujjal Dosanjh (Liberal)
In the 2008 election, Ujjal Dosanjh barely escaped defeat, winning by 20 votes over Conservative Wai Young, a consultant. The New Democrat, Ann Chambers, trailed by more than 8,700 votes.
Dosanjh and Young are battling for a second time. Both their leaders have visited Vancouver South during the campaign, which suggests that the Liberals and the Conservatives have each concluded that this is a battleground riding.
Dosanjh, a former NDP premier, has been on the left side of the federal Liberals since getting elected in 2004. He has pointed out in this campaign that the Conservative crackdown on immigration means that some immigrants will have to wait 14 years before they can be reunited with their parents.
He’s a defender of public health care and has a progressive human-rights record. Former B.C. Green candidate Jodie Emery told the Georgia Straight during the campaign that she wouldn’t run against Dosanjh because she appreciated how hard he worked to stop the deportation of her husband Marc to the United States to face charges for selling marijuana seeds over the Internet.
Dosanjh took this stand at some political risk, given that some first-generation immigrants in his riding would not support his position—and the guarantee that the Conservatives would frame this as Dosanjh being soft on drug dealers.
Of course, Dosanjh has taken risks before. He was clubbed in the head in the 1980s after he publicly criticized those who wanted a separate Sikh homeland called Khalistan. He kept speaking out after that, even from his hospital bed.
In this election, the NDP has nominated social activist Meena Wong, whose fluency in Mandarin and Cantonese will give her more traction than Chambers in the largely immigrant riding. She’s a good campaigner, having worked in 2008 to help elect Don Davies in neighbouring Vancouver Kingsway. Wong also used to work for Olivia Chow, the Trinity-Spadina NDP incumbent and wife of party leader Jack Layton.
She has focused a great deal of effort on the fact that the federal Liberals, including Dosanjh, and the Conservatives didn’t oppose the imposition of the harmonized sales tax in B.C. It will win her some votes. But history suggests that she won’t pull enough to offset a deficit of nearly 9,000 votes in 2008. That’s another reason why we’re recommending Dosanjh.
Taleeb Noormohamed (Liberal)
Noormohamed is a young Ismaili dynamo who will probably make it to Parliament at some point in his life. It may not be this election, given the weakness of the federal Liberal campaign. However, he’s very smart, having won scholarships to Princeton and Oxford universities. He advised Bob Rae while he was conducting a review into the Air India bombing. The Liberals have the best chance of defeating Conservative incumbent Andrew Saxton. Noormohamed is an excellent candidate with a terrific grasp of public policies.
West Vancouver–sunshine Coast–Sea to sky country
Daniel Veniez (Liberal)
Veniez is a businessman who is well-suited to represent this riding, which includes some of the wealthiest residents in the province. It will never go NDP. However, Veniez has built bridges with local New Democrats, even contributing to the ill-fated leadership campaign of Powell River–Sunshine Coast MLA Nicholas Simons. Veniez is a huge fan of his leader, Michael Ignatieff, and no matter how bad the polls appear, nothing will convince him otherwise. He’s the best bet to defeat Conservative incumbent John Weston, who’s a lawyer.
Kennedy Stewart (NDP)
The Simon Fraser University public-policy professor is no stranger to federal politics. He ran a strong second in 2004 against Liberal Hedy Fry in Vancouver Centre. At that time, Stewart was an articulate proponent of proportional representation.
The riding includes SFU’s Burnaby Mountain campus. Stewart is very well-versed on postsecondary issues, which are important to many voters in Burnaby-Douglas. Some left-wing New Democrats might find him to be a tad too conservative.
The Conservative, Hong Kong–born Ronald Leung, narrowly lost in 2008 against New Democrat Bill Siksay, who has retired from politics. Leung has hosted Chinese-language radio shows, but despite his media savvy, he hasn’t returned recent calls from the Straight. In the early part of this decade, he was a fierce opponent of same-sex marriage. Liberal Ken Low doesn’t have a chance.
Peter Julian (NDP)
This is a no-brainer. He’s a very capable politician with a firm grasp on complicated issues, including health care and international trade. Julian is also bilingual, which raises the possibility of him becoming a future leader of the party should Layton decide at some point to step down.
First elected in 2004, he wins with larger pluralities in each successive election. This time should be no different. If the NDP pulls off the upset of the century and wins the most seats, Julian will go straight into cabinet.
Fin Donnelly (NDP)
The former Coquitlam councillor won a stunning landslide in a 2009 by-election by appealing to traditional New Democrats in New Westminster as well as the sizeable number of environmentally minded voters in the Tri-Cities. As the NDP fisheries critic, he has been a relentless opponent of open-net fish farms. He also introduced a private member’s bill to ban oil supertankers off the north coast.
For many years, Donnelly has maintained strong ties with B.C.’s aboriginal community. He helped win trust by swimming the length of the Fraser River twice to raise awareness about the importance of protecting fish habitat.
Michael Wolfe (Green)
The 29-year-old teacher isn’t one of those Green candidates who shows up to put his name on the ballot, and then disappears between elections. Wolfe has been a tireless defender of farmland in Richmond. He’s an articulate proponent of taking action on climate change. Most people believe that Richmond is a contest between Liberal lawyer Joe Peschisolido and Conservative incumbent Alice Wong. Peschisolido ran for the Canadian Alliance in 2000 when Stockwell Day was leader. Wong is a social conservative. New Democrat Dale Jackaman is a computer consultant and antismoking activist.
Nic Slater (NDP)
In a normal election, the best bet to defeat Conservative Kerry-Lynne Findlay would be the Liberal candidate, lawyer Alan Beesley. But this campaign is anything but normal, with the Liberal vote crashing and the NDP charging ahead. Nic Slater is a businessman who has been involved in the fight to preserve the Southlands property in Tsawwassen as agricultural land. He’s carrying the NDP flag, so vote for him to stop Harper’s candidate, who only got on the ballot as a result of the retirement of incumbent John Cummins and the financial problems faced in the past by previous nominee Dale Saip, a veteran school trustee.
Jasbir Sandhu (NDP)
The Surrey restaurateur has worked hard to raise awareness about the Komagata Maru incident, where nearly 400 South Asian immigrants were turned away from Burrard Inlet in 1914 because of racist immigration legislation. Sandhu, who is popular within the South Asian community, has also advocated on behalf of antigang programs. Surrey North should be a centre of harm-reduction programs. That hasn’t occurred under Conservative rule.
Jinny Sims (NDP)
Liberal Sukh Dhaliwal keeps winning elections, but this time he’s up against a tough NDP opponent. Sims demonstrated exceptional political courage, even risking arrest, when she was president of the B.C. Teachers’ Federation. If she shows the same spine in Ottawa, things will get unpleasant for the Conservatives. Dhaliwal, on the other hand, likes to be a nice guy. That doesn’t work when you’re going up against Harper.
Nao Fernando (NDP)
Fernando is an intelligent, progressive labour-relations expert who served as a lay bencher with the Law Society of B.C. He’s worth supporting, even though the odds are against him defeating Conservative Nina Grewal.
South Surrey–White Rock–Cloverdale
Hardy Staub (Liberal)
Staub is a former mayor of White Rock. He’s a former Conservative, but renounced his membership in disgust. This is a very conservative part of the Lower Mainland and it won’t go NDP.
Rebecca Darnell (Liberal)
If the Conservatives were to falter, the Liberal would be the best bet to win. Darnell, a lawyer, is past vice-chair of the Kwantlen Polytechnic University board of governors.
Port Moody–Westwood–Port Coquitlam
James Moore (Conservative)
Readers are going to be angry that we’re recommending a Conservative, but he’s running against a weak field. Moore, who was the minister of Canadian heritage, managed to maintain most of the funding for arts and culture, as well as for the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation. That’s an accomplishment in a government dominated by a bunch of anti-intellectual religious freaks. He also voted in favour of same-sex marriage.
Pitt Meadows–Maple Ridge–Mission
Craig Speirs (NDP)
The Catch 22 campaign, which is targeting Conservatives in battleground ridings, says that Speirs is the only one who has a chance of defeating Randy Kamp. Spiers is a very engaged citizen active in local recycling efforts. He’s also a big booster of B.C. Children’s Hospital.