Christy Clark has always relished a political scrap, but she approaches Tuesday’s vote with her hands tied in one of her most challenging political fights.
The Liberal Leader is trying to win a second term as MLA for Vancouver-Point Grey – a riding covering western Vancouver, including Kitsilano, and the University Endowment Lands. Former premier Gordon Campbell held it for most of his provincial career.
But even Ms. Clark admits that her party commitments, campaigning across the province, has limited the time she can spend at home. “In a perfect world, a premier would be able to campaign across the province and campaign like every other individual candidate in a riding,” she said.
Ms. Clark, who lives in neighbouring Vancouver-Fairview, said she does what she can. She cold-calls voters. She knocks on doors as her schedule allows. If she goes out to lunch or shops, she goes into Vancouver-Point Grey.
The Liberal leader dismisses speculation that she chose the riding to lose, allowing a brisk exit from the leadership if the party is defeated on May 14. “I want to win it and we need to win it,” she said.
Ms. Clark said she believes voters “understand what it takes to run as a premier,” given their support of Mr. Campbell, and hopes her provincial profile makes up for her local absence. “People will have no doubt who I am and what I stand for by the end of this campaign. They won’t have necessarily needed to meet me to understand that.”
NDP candidate David Eby says he is making the most of Ms. Clark’s absence. The former executive director of the B.C. Civil Liberties Association came within 564 votes of winning the 2011 by-election that was called to get Ms. Clark a seat in the legislature after she became leader. Mr. Eby, who moved to the riding since then, has been campaigning full-time for months.
Mr. Eby said his near-win persuaded New Democrats it was possible to take a traditionally Liberal riding. “That margin definitely motivates me,” he said. “The big lesson I learned [from 2011] was this riding is interested in change because I was so close.”
Top New Democrats appear to agree. NDP Leader Adrian Dix launched his provincial campaign in the riding, introduced to supporters by Mr. Eby. The NDP leader has said Ms. Clark can be defeated here.
Ms. Clark has another problem. B.C. Conservatives sat out in 2011, but are now running a candidate who could draw Liberal votes. It might not take much. Mr. Campbell’s margin of victory swung widely. He ran four times in Point Grey, winning by 1,563 votes in 1996; 8,336 votes in the 2001 election, in which the B.C. Liberals won 77 of 79 legislature seats; and 2,250 votes in 2005. In 2009, he won by 1,921.
Retired health-care worker Jack Altman, a long-time resident of the riding, sympathizes with Ms. Clark’s absence arguments, but says she has been tainted by her party’s troubles.
Mr. Altman, 67, said he has voted across the political spectrum, but the NDP could lure his and others’ vote this time.“If the NDP gets the vote out, they have a shot at winning the seat,” he said in a sidewalk interview. “I just think the Liberals themselves are in a lot of trouble. Whether [Ms. Clark] campaigns in the riding or not doesn’t make much difference.”
Riding Snapshot: Vancouver-Point Grey
Christy Clark: B.C. Liberal (incumbent)
David Eby: B.C. NDP
Duane Nickull: B.C. Conservative
Françoise Raunet: Green Party of B.C.
Liberal Gordon Campbell won the riding with 50.38 per cent of the vote; NDP candidate Mel Lehan came in second with 40.28 per cent; Green candidate Stephen Kronstein was third with 8.78 per cent.
Average household income, before tax:
$84,838 (B.C. average $67,675)
Source: Elections B.C. and B.C. Stats