The Conservative Party is employing two of its political stalwarts in British Columbia, a province that is emerging as a crucial battleground in the run-up to the Oct. 19 federal election.
Former public safety minister Stockwell Day and outgoing Industry Minister James Moore are taking to the road for the party in what Mr. Day calls a "backup campaign," even though neither man will be on the ballot this year.
The Conservatives are aiming to hold on to supporters who may be tempted to shift to the New Democratic Party.
This is a province where voters, as a routine, switch between voting Conservative federally and NDP provincially in a political dynamic, rare in Canada, that makes it tough for the federal Liberal Party to gain traction. Nonetheless, Liberal Leader Justin Trudeau has personal ties to the province that include his mother's family and his time in Vancouver working as a teacher.
In the 2011 election, the Conservatives won 21 of 36 seats in the province and are projected to lose a few of those.
This time around, 42 seats are up for grabs and the Tories and New Democrats are in a tight race.
Although Mr. Day left elected politics in 2011 after a career that included stints as Alberta treasurer, leader of the Canadian Alliance, and cabinet posts under Stephen Harper, this is not the first time he has returned to political campaigning.
In 2013, he stumped for the victorious B.C. Liberals – a party that is essentially a coalition of federal Liberals and Conservatives – as they faced a tough challenge from the provincial New Democrats.
Mr. Day rejected the suggestion that the campaign tour with Mr. Moore is a sign of panic, and instead cast it as a prudent measure given the tight race in the province.
"We never take anything for granted. We don't take any voter for granted," Mr. Day said after a feisty stump speech on the economy delivered alongside Vancouver South Conservative candidate Wai Young at a frozen-food operation in the riding.
Outside the event venue, the Conservative tour bus, which is used by Mr. Harper when he is campaigning in the province, was parked and awaiting the former minister. "We recognize this is going to be a close election. We also recognize that, as the numbers come out, British Columbians are going to decide the outcome of the election."
But one political observer suggested the move speaks to some tough realities for the Tory campaign.
Hamish Telford, head of the political-science department at the University of the Fraser Valley, said Tuesday that Mr. Day and Mr. Moore are both likeable politicians who are trusted by the party leadership not to get into rhetorical trouble.
"What they're doing is … going back to people they have confidence in who have a friendlier image than the Prime Minister," he said.
Ahead of the campaign, Mr. Moore said he would not seek re-election. The outgoing MP in Port Moody-Westwood-Port Coquitlam recently got into hot water for suggesting the family of Terry Fox supported a Conservative commitment on funding cancer research. However, this week, Mr. Moore was back in the spotlight with a key role in declaring a re-elected Conservative government would contribute $700-million to help finance light-rail transit in Surrey, one of the most politically competitive areas in a competitive province.
Mr. Day said the tour will be in the Lower Mainland and in the Okanagan this coming weekend. He also invited the public to submit suggestions on where the backup tour should go next.
The NDP and the Liberals are employing some former and departing MPs in their B.C. campaigns, with the Liberals also using former prime ministers Jean Chrétien and Paul Martin, but neither party is deploying a full-fledged bus tour.
Jonathan Wilkinson, running for the Liberals in North Vancouver, said the situation with Mr. Day and Mr. Moore is "odd" because neither is running for office in this election.
A spokesman for the Conservatives said Quebec is the only other province using a similar approach with departing International Development Minister Christian Paradis, not seeking re-election, on the road with two prominent candidates, Public Safety Minister Stephen Blaney and Infrastructure Minister Denis Lebel.