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B.C.’s NDP Leader in final bid to turn polling into power

B.C. NDP Leader Adrian Dix meets with the NDP’s candidate for Oak Bay-Gordon Head Jessica Van der Veen and supporters at the Village Cafe in Victoria’s Oak Bay neighbourhood on May 10, 2013.

Chad Hipolito/The Canadian Press

On the final day of the B.C. election campaign, the two contenders for power will travel very different paths that each hopes will lead to victory on Tuesday.

NDP Leader Adrian Dix is running an endurance campaign.

He was set for a non-stop 24-hour itinerary of campaigning to cover at least 1,700 kilometres and 14 communities, ending with his own Vancouver-Kingsway riding as polls open Tuesday at 8 a.m.

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Liberal Leader Christy Clark is to visit nine communities Monday – three on Vancouver Island and the rest in the Lower Mainland region, ending with her own Vancouver-Point Grey electoral district.

The Liberals are using their leader in the closing days to target closely fought ridings and motivate party workers for the final effort to get out the vote.

For Mr. Dix, the 24-hour marathon reflects a determination by the party to leave nothing undone in what is seen as the NDP's best chance to take power since the B.C. Social Credit Party collapse of 1991.

For Ms. Clark, the focus on trying to tip the balance in a handful of electoral districts follows a campaign in which the Liberals have fought their way back into contention inch by inch and district by district.

A poll released Friday had the NDP running nine points ahead of the Liberals. Another gave the opposition a six-point lead.

British Columbians have only elected an NDP government three times. The party began the 28-day campaign with a double-digit lead and rolled out a modest agenda under the message, "Change for the better, one practical step at a time." The gap has narrowed as Ms. Clark's aggressive campaign gained traction.

On the weekend, Liberal insiders were clinging to hope around the margins of error in polls and to the belief that older voters more inclined to actually vote, as well as those in certain ethnic communities, would turn out for them.

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"I am confident we can win the election," Ms. Clark said Sunday after visiting a Mother's Day picnic in Richmond. "I've never really accepted what the polls have to say, but I really do feel like we have had a lot of momentum over the last few weeks and it continues to grow. There's another 48 hours when people will still be making their decisions."

Mr. Dix said Sunday his plan for a marathon campaign finale was a "fitting end point" to his first campaign since being elected NDP Leader in 2011, about two months after Liberals picked Ms. Clark as their leader.

"People want change in British Columbia, and if they want change they need to vote NDP," he said. It was a message directed in particular at voters who have indicated support for their third-party and independent options, in particular the B.C. Greens.

But Mr. Dix also wants to motivate his own supporters not to take victory for granted. "We don't want anyone to think the campaign is over," he said in an interview.

In his final race through the province, Mr. Dix will reach out to voters in key swing seats, such as Prince George and Kamloops. He'll be stopping in the village of Keremeos in the southern interior – the "fruit stand capital of Canada" – and putting in appearances across vote-rich Metro Vancouver.

Which undecided voters does he really expect to woo at 3 or 4 a.m.?

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"Many people work the night shift," he said. "We are going to be talking to some of them, in health-care facilities, in coffee shops, factories and mills."

In her final weekend of campaigning, Ms. Clark was being largely deployed to NDP-held ridings on Vancouver Island and in the Lower Mainland, where the party thought unique circumstances might allow them to win. For example, Ms. Clark went to campaign in Surrey-Fleetwood with Langley City Mayor Peter Fassbender, thought to have a shot at winning the NDP-held riding given his prominence in regional affairs.

The thinking Monday was to send Ms. Clark into similar ridings to motivate party workers and voters on the ground. She was headed for five NDP ridings, three held by Liberals and one held by an independent. Ms. Clark will finish her first campaign tour as Liberal Leader in her own riding of Vancouver-Point Grey, which she won by only 564 votes in a 2011 by-election.

At dissolution of the legislature, the Liberals had 45 seats, the NDP had 36 and there were four independents.

Mr. Dix has been the subject of sustained and sharp attacks by the Liberals throughout the campaign. The NDP Leader vowed not to respond in kind, but eventually sharpened criticism on the Liberal record. Above all, the NDP sought to remind voters of the introduction of the harmonized sales tax shortly after the 2009 election. That tax was lifted last month after the government lost a referendum on it.

At a rally Sunday in Vancouver, Mr. Dix sought to turn another Liberal attack back on its authors. Referring to an attack ad that features his head on a weathervane, he remarked: "I don't think we need a weathervane to know which way the wind blows."

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About the Authors
B.C. politics reporter

Based in the press gallery of the B.C. Legislature in Victoria, Justine has followed the ups and downs of B.C. premiers since 1988. She has also worked as a business reporter and on Parliament Hill covering national politics. More

B.C. reporter

Ian Bailey is a Vancouver-based reporter for The Globe and Mail.  He covers politics and general news. Prior to arriving at The Globe and Mail, he reported from Toronto and St. John’s for The Canadian Press.  He has also covered British Columbia for CP, The National Post and The Province. More


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