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NDP lagging behind Liberals on nominating B.C. election candidates

B.C. NDP leader John Horgan speaks to media following at the Victoria Legislature on Feb. 14, 2017, in Victoria.


B.C.'s New Democrats are behind the provincial Liberals in the number of candidates they have nominated to run in the May provincial election, but the Opposition party is playing down the gap, saying nominating candidates now is building voter excitement in their party.

As of Tuesday, the NDP had nominated 58 candidates of the 87 required to cover all the ridings in the May 9 election.

That 58 total compares with 74 candidates for the BC Liberals. The BC Green Party is running well behind both parties with 30 candidates nominated, according to the party. The Greens also plan to run candidates in each riding.

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The NDP situation comes despite a pointed recommendation in a party review of the outcome of the 2013 election that many had expected the NDP would win. The party lost to the BC Liberals under Christy Clark.

The panel, which offered a series of ideas for doing better in this year's election, recommended establishing a plan for non-incumbent candidates to be nominated "well in advance of the [2017] writ period to allow them to make the most of their time and resources."

But NDP deputy director Glen Sanford said in an interview that the party's 2017 "calculated approach" is also built on lessons from 2013, including a debate on how to respond to the election panel's suggestion.

"This is part of the lesson we learned from the last campaign: We have to time these things for maximum effect and the most energy and momentum so we're really pleased with the way things are going," Mr. Sanford said, referring to nominations.

"We're finding that the timing of this is excellent because we're building momentum and getting people charged and excited at exactly the right time as they're starting to pay more attention to the election campaign."

In the absence of nominated candidates, Mr. Sanford said the party is running "active campaigns" in ridings, spreading the general NDP message through door-knocking volunteers, who are also making phone calls to make the NDP case to voters.

Mr. Sanford said the party expects to have most of its candidates nominated by the end of March.

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He said the party does not see this as a race with other parties and that, in his view, the issue does not matter to voters.

But political scientist Hamish Telford said research suggests the importance of having candidates out early that voters can connect with.

Prof. Telford, who teaches at the University of the Fraser Valley, described the NDP "active campaigns" approach in the absence of candidates as "better than nothing" but not as good as having a candidate who can be out making the case for support to voters through personal contact.

He added that early nominations also allow parties to road test candidates, with the possibility that such problems as past social-media gaffes can be exposed well in advance of the full-fledged formal campaign when they can be a significant distraction.

Prof. Telford cited, for example, the case of BC Liberal candidate Randy Rinaldo who was nominated last May as the party's candidate in Burnaby-Lougheed, but stepped down shortly after over controversial tweets he had previously made.

Of the NDP's current situation, Prof. Telford said, "It doesn't help. They could be doing themselves a favour by getting this done faster."

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