As Canadians head to the polls Monday in an election that is expected to deliver some tight races in B.C., Vancouver South will be a closely watched battle.
Incumbent Liberal candidate Ujjal Dosanjh, who won by just 20 votes in the 2008 federal election, described the area as a “hotly contested riding”.
University of Victoria political scientist Dennis Pilon said nearly all of the Vancouver ridings could be at risk for the Liberals, as federal polls show the party’s support dropping next to the surging NDP.
But he noted that “national polls are national polls – they don’t tell us what’s going on in particular ridings.”
“Even the worst results for parties, you know parties still have areas of strength. The Liberals would still have to fall pretty far to lose a considerable chunk of seats,” he added.
Dosanjh expressed confidence as voting day approaches, but predicted the race in his riding will be “a nail biter”.
The former B.C. premier said since 2008 it’s been one long election campaign, as he has worked to win back support in the riding.
“I’ve held about eight town halls on different issues,” he told the Straight by phone. “I’ve been coming back every weekend if I’m not out of the country.”
The election race in Vancouver South has also featured some controversy, after Ripudaman Singh Malik, one of the men acquitted in the Air India bombings, reportedly endorsed Conservative candidate Wai Young.
A statement posted on Young’s website rejected the endorsement and indicated that Malik “is not involved in the Conservative candidate in Vancouver South’s campaign, nor that of any other Conservative Party candidate.”
Young could not be reached for comment by the Straight’s deadline.
New Democrat candidate Meena Wong, who has worked on previous NDP campaigns, said more voters seem to be politically engaged this time.
“I’m glad to see this wave of people getting really engaged, and to see young people getting engaged,” she said in a phone interview.
"It’s so encouraging and refreshing to see people saying yeah we had enough, we want to give NDP a chance”.
Wong, a facilitator with Vancouver Coastal Health, said some of the major issues on the campaign trail have included health care, home care, and concerns from small businesses about the impacts of the harmonized sales tax.
Dosanjh said some of the main issues he’s heard on the doorsteps have included health care, the economy, affordable housing, and the need for a seniors’ centre in South Vancouver.
The Liberal candidate said the eastern half of the city is under-serviced for seniors, with only one seniors’ centre east of Main Street, and eight west of Main.
“The south east quadrant of the city has no seniors’ centre at all," he said.
“The city has given money, the park board has given land, the provincial government hasn’t said anything and the federal government hasn’t said anything."
The Green Party is running instructor and vocational counsellor Jean de Dieu Hakizimana in Vancouver South.
Hakizimana said he hopes this election will help build support for the Greens.
“We are building the future...we can see the last 10 years how we have been growing,” he told the Straight. “Developing a federal political party is not very easy work.”
In 2008, the Green candidate had 2,065 votes. New Democrat candidate Ann Chambers received 7,376 votes, while Conservative candidate Young had 16,090, and Dosanjh won with 16,110 votes.