Victoria, Esquimalt-Sooke-Saanich candidates gear up for long campaign period

The race is on in the federal election and results could come down to the wire in the Victoria and Esquimalt-Sooke-Saanich ridings.

The race is on in the federal election and results could come down to the wire in the Victoria and Esquimalt-Sooke-Saanich ridings, says a University of Victoria professor.

“Both ridings will be interesting to watch for different reasons,” said Kim Speers, a professor in the faculty of human and social development at UVic.

In Victoria (one of the few ridings that was not affected by the 2012 federal electoral boundaries changes), incumbent NDP Murray Rankin, Liberal candidate Cheryl Thomas and Conservative candidate John Rizzuti are in the running.

However, Speers said the real challenge to Rankin’s seat comes from Jo-Ann Roberts, a former CBC host representing the Green Party.

“I hope we have a very honourable campaign, I know we’ll be positive, persuasive and persistent. If we have that kind of campaign, I believe we’ll get a high voter turnout,” said Roberts, noting over the next few months she will focus on door knocking and kitchen table talks with residents.

“In this riding, people have a voice and they don’t have to vote out of fear. In other parts of the country, people are voting out of fear of Stephen Harper being re-elected. We can vote for something in Victoria.”

But Rankin said he’s ready for the challenge.

“My strategy will be simply to go to voters and tell them about my record — my record on the environment, my record on social justice issues, my experience now as a person who has been in parliament,” said Rankin, adding he’s already signed up for five debates.

“I’m proud of some of the things I’ve managed to do. I’m hoping people will look at that record and access me worthy to represent them.”

Another election battle will be fought in the newly-formed Esquimalt-Sooke-Saanich riding (formerly Esquimalt-Juan de Fuca), which includes some 113,000 people in Esquimalt, Colwood, Metchosin, View Royal, Sooke and parts of Saanich.

According to Speers, after boundary changes, all parties believe they have a chance at winning the seat.

“There appears to be the belief that when boundaries change, it is a free-for-all in terms of who is going to win, but it is important to look at how much the boundaries have changed,” she said. “In this case, the boundaries have changed where approximately half the riding is now represented by different parts of Saanich.”

Incumbent Randy Garrison, Conservative candidate Shari Lukens, Green Party candidate Frances Litman, Libertarian Josh Steffler and Liberal candidate David Merner are in the running.

“It’s knocking on every door and shaking the hands of people and basically out working everybody else in the race, that’s the key. If we can knock on every single door or telephone every single home, we have a chance of winning,” said Merner, adding they’ve had almost 10,000 contacts since January.

On Sunday (Aug. 2), Prime Minister Stephen Harper dropped the writ launching politicians into 78 days of campaigning, one of the longest in the country’s history, eventually leading up to the federal election on Oct. 19.

Speers added all candidates need to be cautious not to bore voters over the next 11 weeks.