Candidates for a potential by-election in New Westminster–Coquitlam say they are hearing one message from voters in the federal riding: Canadians aren’t in the mood for a general election this fall.
Fin Donnelly (NDP), Ken Beck Lee (Liberal), and Rebecca Helps (Green) indicated in phone interviews that the riding’s residents feel it’s too soon for the country to plunge into another campaign, having elected a third consecutive minority government on October 14, 2008. Port Moody councillor and Conservative candidate Diana Dilworth didn’t return the Straight’s call before deadline.
If an election is called, it will be the fourth in just over five years.
The Liberals have withdrawn their support for the Conservative government, but it will take all three opposition parties to pull the rug out from under the Conservatives. Prime Minister Stephen Harper’s government is likely to survive for now following an announcement by Bloc Québécois leader Gilles Duceppe that his party will not support the Conservatives in a budget vote on Friday (September 18).
An Angus Reid Strategies poll released on September 16 showed the Conservatives seven percentage points ahead of the Liberals, with the parties gaining the support of 36 percent and 29 percent of voters, respectively. The NDP was in third place with 17 percent; the Bloc had 10 percent; and the Greens garnered seven percent.
Donnelly is a three-term Coquitlam city councillor who has swum the length of the Fraser River twice to promote environmental issues.
“I’ve had folks raise the missing-sockeye-salmon issue and DFO’s [Fisheries and Oceans Canada’s] role,” Donnelly told the Straight. “New West and even parts of Coquitlam are along the Fraser and they are Fraser River communities, and at one time there were a lot more fishing vessels. The number of fishers over the years has dwindled.”
A professional engineer, Lee defeated Michael Ignatieff supporter and former federal candidate Gerry Lenoski for the party’s nomination.
Lee noted that a major concern among residents in the riding is the harmonized sales tax that will be introduced by the provincial government on July 1, 2010. “Our position is we don’t think it’s a good idea in B.C. because you don’t have a manufacturing base in here,” Lee told the Straight. “If you have a large manufacturing base, you have a lot of hidden sales tax embedded in the system. So in a province like Ontario, it may make sense because you reduce the cost of administration.”
An advocate of proportional representation, Helps ran as the Green candidate for Port Moody–Coquitlam in May’s provincial election.
“Port Moody and Coquitlam have been waiting 20 years for the Evergreen Line, and it’s still not coming,” Helps told the Straight when asked about the concerns of voters in the riding. “Although the provincial and federal governments have promised their fair share, and funding for TransLink is falling short, people are expecting all levels of government to step up.”
In April, the seat in New Westminster–Coquitlam, which includes a portion of Port Moody, was vacated by then–NDP MP Dawn Black, who subsequently became the NDP MLA for New Westminster. According to Donnelly, the prime minister should call the by-election no later than October 14. Donnelly added that voting must take place at least 35 days after the election has been called.