Vancouver’s mayor is warning voters against electing the federal Conservatives, saying a government led by Andrew Scheer would be out of step with his city’s priorities on transit, affordable housing and harm reduction.
But Kennedy Stewart, a former NDP MP, did not endorse any of Mr. Scheer’s progressive rivals, the Liberals, NDP or Greens.
Mr. Stewart delivered that assessment in the final week of an election campaign that is showing no clear front-runner. It is the strongest statement from a Vancouver mayor since Larry Campbell called Conservatives “barbarians at the gate” in the 2004 federal campaign.
The Vancouver mayor said a Conservative government would threaten his city’s progress in expanding transit, housing and supervised drug-use sites. “This would be a disaster for the city,” he said at a news conference Wednesday at City Hall. “I know what the impact will be on the ground – it will be more dead people.” Mr. Stewart said he believes a Conservative government would move to restrict supervised injection sites, based on the actions of other conservative governments in Alberta and Ontario, as well as the Conservative government led by Stephen Harper.
Mr. Stewart said he was “shocked” when he read the Conservative platform, released last week, and said he is not concerned about wrecking a relationship with a possible future Conservative government. “Our relationship is already cooked. The best thing I can do is warn Vancouverites.”
He added that Mr. Scheer is the only federal leader who declined to meet with him.
His comments come as other mayors across the Lower Mainland released a voters guide warning that the Conservative infrastructure platform could affect such eagerly awaited transit projects as a subway to the main campus of the University of British Columbia.
Funding is in place for a 5.7-kilometre extension of the existing SkyTrain system running, largely underground, to Arbutus Street, well shy of the UBC campus. But Mr. Stewart, among others, has been calling for a quick extension of the SkyTrain to UBC, once work on the first project is done in 2025 or 2026.
The mayors suggest funding for that UBC line, as well as a move championed by Surrey Mayor Doug McCallum to extend SkyTrain to Langley, could be threatened by a Tory commitment to extend infrastructure spending over 15 years, instead of the 12 years proposed by the Liberals. The mayors say this would result in a reduction in federal funding.
“I think this guide could be very helpful to voters in making sure they are making informed decisions when they head into the polls,” New Westminster Mayor Jonathan Cote said on Wednesday. He is chair of the mayors’ council on regional transportation.
While Mr. Stewart is clearly taking a side, mayors of two other key B.C. cities said they were remaining on the sidelines of the election.
A spokesman for Mr. McCallum said the mayor will remain neutral. In a text exchange, Victoria Mayor Lisa Helps also said she is not taking sides.
Asked about Wednesday’s comments from Mr. Stewart and the mayors’ council, Conservative spokesman Simon Jefferies said in a statement that Mr. Scheer as prime minister would be a “strong partner” with Vancouver and other Canadian municipalities.
He also cited a pair of letters that Mr. Scheer sent to mayors in September and in recent days inviting questions about his party’s plans on infrastructure and promising to expedite work on projects.
Political rivals to the Tories said they planned to exploit both the developments with Mr. Stewart and the mayors’ council as they make closing arguments in a region where the races are extremely tight.
“It is a help to us,” said Taleeb Noormohamed, running for the Liberals in Vancouver-Granville against incumbent Jody Wilson-Raybould, a former Liberal now running as an Independent.
Mr. Noormohamed said campaign volunteers knocking on doors and calling voters will be briefed on new developments with Mr. Stewart and the mayors’ council.
Glen Sanford, B.C. director for the federal NDP campaign, said his party’s candidates will also add Wednesday’s developments to their scripts.
However, he said New Democrats will make the point that they can do better than the Liberals or the Conservatives on the issues being raised.
All of this is part of a last-minute scramble to consolidate support in the competition for B.C.’s 42 seats, especially the dense cluster in the Vancouver region and on Vancouver Island.
Pollster Nik Nanos said Tuesday that 18 seats in B.C. are too close to call. Beyond that, however, he said the Liberals appear likely to win 10, the Tories five, the NDP seven and the Greens two.
In the 2015 election, the Liberals won 17 seats. The Conservatives had 10, and the NDP won 14 seats. Green Party Leader Elizabeth May won in the Vancouver Island riding of Saanich-Gulf Islands.
On Wednesday, Ms. May said Canada is heading for a minority government that is probably the best possible scenario for her party.
“A minority Parliament gives us the opportunity to deliver on what is needed,” she said at a campaign event in Victoria.
With just days left to reach voters, Ms. May has stuck with her message about the urgent need for climate action – and her argument that only the Greens have a plan to reduce greenhouse gas emissions at a rate that can avert catastrophic climate change.
But she acknowledged that voters are now being pressed to vote strategically to ensure either a Liberal or Conservative majority. Ms. May, who was in Victoria, a riding her party hopes to win from the incumbent NDP, says voters should not fear a more complicated outcome.
Liberal Leader Justin Trudeau and Mr. Scheer will both be in the province this week for a final appeal to B.C. voters.