Jody Wilson-Raybould’s ouster from the federal Liberal caucus has left party members in British Columbia in limbo as they search for another candidate in Vancouver-Granville.
The party had nominated Ms. Wilson-Raybould as their candidate for the fall election. Last month, she was the centre of attention at a packed riding event where scores of supporters lined up to greet and take selfies with her and applauded her commitment to seek re-election as a Liberal.
The Globe and Mail reported in early February that officials in the Prime Minister’s Office put pressure on the former attorney-general to intervene in the prosecution of SNC-Lavalin Group Inc. She resigned from cabinet in mid-February and on Tuesday Prime Minister Justin Trudeau expelled her from caucus along with former cabinet minister Jane Philpott.
Now, the Liberals have classed her riding as “unheld,” according to the party’s director in B.C., and the Liberals will have to field a new candidate in a riding where there seems to be a great deal of support for Ms. Wilson-Raybould.
In the 2015 election, Ms. Wilson-Raybould won the newly created riding with 44 per cent of the vote.
The stakes are high for the Liberals. They have 17 of 41 B.C. seats. The NDP have 13, the Tories have nine, the Greens one and there is Ms. Wilson-Raybould, who now sits as an independent.
University of the Fraser Valley political scientist Hamish Telford said the Liberals face losses across Canada, and will need to hold as many B.C. seats as possible to maintain their majority.
In Vancouver-Granville, Prof. Telford said that means a new Liberal candidate who can juggle defending the government over the SNC-Lavalin scandal, dealing with the damage to Mr. Trudeau’s reputation and dealing with Ms. Wilson-Raybould’s candidacy if she runs for re-election as a candidate for another party or as an independent.
“I don’t envy the new candidate,” Prof. Telford said.
Gabe Garfinkel, the federal Liberals’ B.C. director, said the party is beginning to hear tentatively from prospective candidates for the party nomination. Any prospective successor for Ms. Wilson-Raybould would have to go through a nomination process or be appointed by Mr. Trudeau.
In Ottawa, Ms. Wilson-Raybould told reporters she would have to think and talk to her family and constituents before deciding what to do next politically.
Outside her constituency office on Wednesday, constituents expressed divided opinions on Ms. Wilson-Raybould.
“I don’t support the Liberals. I have never liked them, but I think she’s a good lady and if it came to it, I would support her,” said Chris Korvin, a retired doctor, describing her as honest, straightforward and decent.
As he walked by the door to the constituency office, retired coast guard diver Richard Foreman veered close and gave a thumbs up to those inside.
“I certainly want Jody to know we support her 100 per cent,” said Mr. Foreman, who voted for her in the last election. “We are supporting her in the future, whatever it holds for her.”
He said Canadians need to look beyond party labels to more closely assess the qualities of their MPs.
But Rosa Brussoni, a retired office worker, said she does not support Ms. Wilson-Raybould. “She betrayed the Liberal party,” she said, adding she would happily vote for a new Liberal candidate in Vancouver-Granville.
Greg Wilson, the president of the Vancouver-Granville riding association in 2015, said Liberals in the riding will now rally to gain the seat back.
“We’re going to lose some – the ones who came for her – but we’re also going to pick up the ones for the new candidate,” he said.
Both the NDP and the Conservatives in statements said there have been expressions of interest from prospective nominees to run for their parties.
Outside the Vancouver region, a vice-president of the Liberal riding association in Chilliwack-Hope quit in support of Ms. Wilson-Raybould and Ms. Philpott. Louis De Jaeger said in an interview he would not run for the party in 2019 as he had in 2015, when he lost to the Conservative candidate.
Mr. De Jaeger said “backroom dealings” around SNC-Lavalin, and the move against a prominent Indigenous woman – Ms. Wilson Raybould – had shaken faith in the Prime Minister. “He’s blown it,” he said. “The party has a good shot of turning this around if they change the leader.”