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British Columbia B.C. party leaders make final campaign plans for election’s last days

B.C. NDP leader John Horgan arrives for a leaders debate in Vancouver, B.C., Wednesday, April 26, 2017.

JONATHAN HAYWARD/THE CANADIAN PRESS

Coming out of the final televised debate of the British Columbia election this week, the leaders of the province's major parties will be travelling tactically before May 9, looking to seal the deal with voters ahead of voting.

"The weight of each day of the campaign intensifies in the final two weeks," said Glen Sanford, deputy director for the BC NDP, a party seeking to win its first provincial campaign since 1996.

He said that means voters are now paying more attention in light of the widely broadcast leaders debate held Wednesday night, so what is said, and where, is now more important. "It's really game on," he said.

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The NDP's path to victory entails holding their 35 seats in the legislature and taking seats from the Liberals, who had 47 at dissolution, largely by capturing battleground seats that the government won narrowly in 2013. There was also one Green member and two independents.

NDP Leader John Horgan has faced Liberal teasing for sticking to the Lower Mainland in the campaign to date, but Mr. Sanford said that has been a planned effort to court battleground ridings in the region. "We need to ensure we are carrying our message to all potential seats we can pick up in the election," Mr. Sanford said.

But Thursday saw Mr. Horgan making a swing into the B.C. Interior with stops in Quesnel, Williams Lake and Prince George. He was dismissive of BC Liberal criticisms about the delay in his getting to Prince George.

During a meeting with supporters, he said that while the campaign may be 28 days, he has been in Prince George since becoming opposition leader three years ago. "This notion of who got there first? That's middle-school stuff man."

Going ahead, Mr. Sanford said Mr. Horgan will be going to Victoria on Friday, and returning to the Interior next week with stops in Metro Vancouver in between. "It has always been our plan to visit as many battlegrounds as possible, but also be flexible to adjust to changing conditions."

Following the leaders' debate on Wednesday, BC Liberal Leader Christy Clark said that she would, going forward, be sticking to her message.

"I'm going to go back to what I was doing before tonight and including tonight, which is talking to British Columbians about our plan to cut taxes, control government spending and make sure we're creating jobs.

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"That's what I have been doing from Day 1 of the campaign and that's what I am going to continue to do," Ms. Clark told reporters.

She did not talk about where she might be going next, though a Liberal insider said on Thursday that the campaign will be "going everywhere," travelling broadly before voting day.

Andrew Weaver of the B.C. Green Party was in Victoria on Thursday – a region where the Greens appear to be competitive and where he won the party's first legislature seat.

He was heading to Parksville, and then Kamloops, Kelowna and Nelson, where he sees support for the party. Beyond that, he said he was planning to tour parts of Vancouver Island.

There are no polls suggesting that the Greens can win government in British Columbia, but the party appears to have pockets of support that could lead to more members being elected to the legislature.

"We haven't actually planned where I will be in the last few days yet, on purpose," Mr. Weaver said.

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For the first time, the Greens have their own pollster, and numbers from that organization will help guide them before voting day.

"We actually have to start assessing our own internal polling to figure out where I should go after where I am going immediately."

Mr. Weaver has travelled during the campaign, but he said he has more latitude to travel going forward, with the need to prepare for the leaders' debate now concluded.

"After the leaders' debate, it's game on in other areas."

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