Victoria, one of three federal ridings contesting a byelection on Nov. 26, has gone strongly NDP in the past two elections, with popular former city councillor Denise Savoie on the ballot.
But Savoie took early retirement for health reasons and the race to replace her appears wide open, with a collection of relative political neophytes up for election.
The NDP is no doubt anxious to maintain its grip on opposition status, so it’s no surprise that federal leader Thomas Mulcair dropped by this week to lend his support to candidate Murray Rankin.
Not to be outdone, the Liberals sent interim leader Bob Rae to Victoria to help candidate Paul Summerville, while the Conservatives had Treasury Board president and former Conservative health minister Tony Clement knock on doors with candidate Dale Gann.
Green Party candidate Donald Galloway had his federal leader, Saanich and the Islands MP Elizabeth May, close at hand for a series of announcements and appearances as well, but she had far less distance to travel than her fellow members of parliament, who hail from Ontario or Quebec.
Does the appearance of all this star power really make a difference in voters’ minds? Candidates and other party faithful get fired up when their leaders come to town, but they’re already converted.
The big question is, does the leaders’ presence interest the disinterested?
Unlike a general election, the future direction of the country does not hinge on the results of this byelection and those in Calgary and Durham, Ont. With that in mind, last year’s voter turnout of 68 per cent in Victoria – seven points higher than the national mark – will be difficult to beat.
Then again, the appearance of the party leaders, and the media circus surrounding them, may be an indication that something important is happening. And that curiosity may be enough to encourage people who wouldn’t otherwise pay attention to find out more about their candidates and maybe even cast a ballot.