Why Vancouver Granville is a riding to watch in the upcoming federal election
Jody Wilson-Raybould is not seeking reelection, which means that the city will get at least one new MP after the votes are counted
In most federal elections, the vast majority of incumbents are reelected.
For evidence of that, look no further than what happened in Vancouver in 2019. All six MPs cruised to victory, including Jody Wilson-Raybould, who had bailed on her party to run as an independent.
Unless there's a political earthquake on the horizon, it's pretty safe to bet on all five incumbents seeking reelection this time in Vancouver: Liberals Hedy Fry, Joyce Murray, and Harjit Sajjan, and New Democrats Don Davies and Jenny Kwan.
Fry, Kwan, Davies, and Sajjan have never lost, and Murray has never lost at the federal level.
It's conceivable that any of them could be defeated, of course. But given the demographics and income levels in their ridings, the federal polling numbers, and their relatively high public profiles, it's not looking likely right now.
In the looming federal election, the only riding in the city without an incumbent is Vancouver Granville, where Liberal Taleeb Noormohamed has a decent chance to make it to Parliament in his third attempt.
Noormohamed is a West Vancouver–raised tech entrepreneur with degrees from Princeton and Harvard and an admirable record of community service. He was defeated in 2019 in Vancouver Granville and came second as the Liberal candidate in North Vancouver in 2011.
He'll find out who his NDP opponent will be on Tuesday (August 17) when members decide whether to nominate antiracism-education activist Markiel Simpson or climate-justice campaigner Anjali Appadurai.
The Conservative candidate is corporate lawyer Kailin Che. She attended schools in the riding and worked for Conservative cabinet ministers when Stephen Harper was prime minister.
In the 2019 election, Noormohamed trailed Wilson-Raybould by 3,177 votes. Conservative Zach Segal was 5,660 votes behind, with the NDP's Yvonne Hanson far back in fourth place.
The Wilson-Raybould and Conservative campaigns spent close to $100,000 each, with Noormohamed topping that with $103,546.83 in expenditures.
In comparison, the NDP only spent $28,671.17 in 2019. The Greens forked out a paltry $2,198.84 for their candidate, Louise Boutin, who came fourth with 1.96 percent of the votes.
Boutin's leader at the time, Elizabeth May, appeared to be supporting Wilson-Raybould's candidacy. Long-time Green Imtiaz Popat, a cofounder of the Coalition Against Bigotry–Pacific, has announced that he will be seeking the nomination this year. The People's Party of Canada standard bearer is self-described Canadian patriot Damian Jewett.
This time around, don't expect the NDP to allocate huge amounts of money to this relatively wealthy riding. That's because the party needs needs all the cash it can generate to protect its incumbents across B.C. and to compete in more winnable parts of the Lower Mainland.
That spells bad news for whoever is carrying the flag for the NDP and makes it unlikely that this candidate can match the high-water mark for the party in Vancouver Granville in 2015. Back then, Mira Oreck captured 27 percent of the votes after her campaign spent a whopping $165,255.58.
Oreck, who later held a senior position in Premier John Horgan's office, is supporting Simpson. He appeared on the cover of the Georgia Straight earlier this year. You can learn more about him here.
Simpson has an army of supporters eager to see him become the first B.C. MP of African ancestry. Plus, he has the support of the provincial party establishment.
But this nomination is not a slam dunk, given the environmental sensitivies of traditional NDP voters in Vancouver Granville. In May, Appadurai cowrote a column on Straight.com taking the B.C. government to task for not doing enough to address the global climate and biodiversity crisis.
The article demonstrated in stark terms how B.C. and Canada have been outliers with sharply rising greenhouse-gas emissions since 1990 whereas other industrialized countries have posted steep declines. Appadurai and coauthor Jens Wieting pointed out that Canada has actually fared far, far worse than the United States.
Not surprisingly, Appadurai is being supported by NDP climate activists, including Hanson, in her quest for the nomination.
The Conservatives used to win seats in Vancouver but since 1993, only one has been elected. Wai Young captured Vancouver South in 2011 when the Conservatives obtained their only majority under Stephen Harper.
One obstacle facing federal Conservative candidates in Vancouver is their lack of name recognition.
In Vancouver Granville, for instance, they'll be fielding their third candidate in three elections. Even though Che may appear to have solid credentials on paper, very few voters know her name.
But if the NDP can siphon off enough Liberal votes and if Che can rally lots of former Wilson-Raybould voters to her camp, she will have a chance. She'll also need the national Conservative campaign to catch fire with the electorate.
On July 25, 2020, Che appeared on a syndicated radio program calling for mandatory mask-wearing in B.C. She did this in her capacity as a lawyer, representing a doctor seeking an injunction to force the B.C. government to mandate masks in indoor spaces.
The fact that Che was publicly calling for mandatory masks, even if it was simply reflecting the views of her client, will serve her well on the doorsteps of the riding when she meets voters who are freaked out about COVID-19. She can immediately dispel notions that she's a right-wing kooky COVID denier.
But if this summer's climate reckoning turns voters away from both the Conservatives and the Liberals, then the NDP might have an outside chance.
Keep in mind that the national vote is likely to occur around the time that hurricanes traditionally wallop the U.S. If Florida or Texas or Louisiana are being battered in the same week as the election, this will drive home the need for stronger action.
This has been a year of wicked forest fires and an even more deadly heat dome, which killed hundreds of British Columbians. If Appadurai becomes the NDP candidate, it will be fun to watch her pick apart the Conservative and Liberal candidates on the climate at an all-candidates meeting.
Whether it's methane emissions, changes in the jet streams, thermohaline circulation, the dieback of the Amazon rainforest, the loss of sea ice in the Arctic, the decline of land ice on Greenland, or the effects of warming on monsoons in South Asia, Appadurai can tie them in knots.
While Noormohamed and Che may be able debaters, they're going to have a tough time defending their parties' records on emissions, which are among the worst in the industrialized world.
Climate feedback loops should be the election issue in 2021. They pose a greater threat to humanity over the long term than COVID-19.
But that's not likely to happen when we're still in the midst of a global pandemic and with a national media that still doesn't take this seriously enough. And it's far from certain that NDP Leader Jagmeet Singh will focus a great deal of attention on the climate, given the B.C. NDP's support for liquefied-natural-gas plants.
Because of that, I'd say that Noormohamed remains the odds-on favourite. And if he wins, he'll become the first Ismaili Muslim ever elected to Parliament in B.C., which would be no small accomplishment, given the magnitude of Islamophobia that still exists in Canada.