Greater Victoria NDP candidates election ready, though premier vows to wait until spring

Premier Christie Clark may have fizzled speculation about a provincial election before May 2013, but that hasn’t stopped the B.C. New Democrats from getting ready to run.

Premier Christie Clark may have fizzled speculation about a provincial election before May 2013, but that hasn’t stopped the B.C. New Democrats from getting ready to run.

Incumbents Rob Fleming, Lana Popham and Carole James will return as candidates in their respective ridings of Victoria-Swan Lake, Saanich South and Victoria-Beacon Hill. In Esquimalt-Royal Roads, Maurine Karagianis’ nomination meeting has yet to be held.

On Sept. 1, the only NDP candidate in the area who isn’t a sitting MLA, Jessica Van der Veen, was declared the party’s candidate for Oak Bay-Gordon Head.

“There’s been a real push and drive (to select candidates) because of the uncertainty that (Premier) Christy Clark created. We’ve had to get election-ready,” Van der Veen said. “I’m very excited about being the prospective future MLA for Oak Bay-Gordon Head.”

Only 561 votes separated incumbent Liberal Ida Chong and Van der Veen in the 2009 election.

Popham (Saanich South) and Fleming (Victoria-Swan Lake) were officially selected in June. James (Victoria-Beacon Hill) was chosen on Aug. 28.

“Having the nomination out of the way, now that there has been a decision made and we won’t have an election this fall, it makes it much better to prepare property for the legislative session,” Popham said. “When you get elected you expect to be an MLA for four years … but the amount of turmoil that’s happened (since the 2009 election) with both political parties and the HST has made it an unusual, unpredictable session.”

Less than one week after the results of the HST referendum were released, Clark ended months of questions surrounding a premature general election by announcing that she will wait until the scheduled 2013 date.

She denied that the defeat of the HST or party polling changed her mind. In various interviews, she emphasized the instability of the world economy and the lack of a public appetite for another election this year.

NDP leader Adrian Dix said the government’s unpopularity after the two-year HST furore and its lack of new ideas are the reason for the reversal.

After being sworn in as premier, Clark appointed an election readiness committee chaired by cabinet minister Rich Coleman and Brad Bennett, son of former premier Bill Bennett. Election preparations recently cost Clark a cabinet minister, as Chilliwack-Hope MLA Barry Penner stepped down as attorney-general in August, citing the pressure to name a campaign team for a possible fall election.

B.C.’s election law specifies a provincial election every four years, but reserves the traditional right of the government to deal with unusual circumstances such as death or resignation.

– with files from Tom Fletcher

kslavin@saanichnews.com