(Contributed)

Central Okanagan—Similkameen—Nicola riding is battleground for Conservative and Liberal candidates, experts say

Will Liberals have the same support in riding as 2015?

While the Central Okanagan-Similkameen-Nicola riding started out conservative, the 2015 election saw a boost in Liberal support with the party’s candidate that year, Karley Scott, coming 1,397 votes behind Conservative incumbent Dan Albas.

READ MORE: Election 2015 — Albas wins in Central Okanagan-Similkameen-Nicola

Whether the Liberals will be able to garner anything like that 37 per cent boost in popular support or more in the riding this year is the question, said Robert Hanlon, an associate professor of political science at Thompson Rivers University.

“There are a lot of NDP strongholds, especially in the Okanagan, and then we have the Liberals that, historically, have not done well in this part of the province. They do quite well in the Lower Mainland and you’ve got the Conservative who do well in the other parts of the province,” explained Hanlon. “You get this split on the left-leaning vote and this is where the Liberals, especially in the last election, try to make gains to get extra seats to secure a majority.”

Hanlon said the increase in Liberal support in the riding in 2015 at the expense of the NDP was likely a result of the momentum around Justin Trudeau, a political outsider who captivated voters in the country. The idea is whether this momentum is sustainable enough to affect the same kind of support in 2019 because Trudeau’s popularity is not as strong as it used to be.

Kathryn Harrison, a professor of political science at the UBC said during the 2015 election campaign, the Liberals came out with clever policy announcements and Trudeau turned out to be an effective campaigner.

READ MORE: Six candidates on ballot in Central Okanagan-Similkameen-Nicola riding

“He did well in the debates and that created this bandwagon effect and so the Liberals popularity really went up in the course of the election,” Harrison explained, adding the Liberal party did better than the polls projected. But this time, the situation is different.

”It’s possible the Liberals still have some big announcements up their sleeves that they’ll come out with that could have an impact on votes,” Harrison said. “Also we haven’t yet seen Justin Trudeau in a leaders debate, he skipped the first one. So will the Liberals run an effective campaign?

“Justin Trudeau isn’t the young and charismatic outsider anymore. He’s also the oldest of the first top three leaders,” she added.

In a close election — right now the Liberal and Conservative parties are neck and neck — every seat matters, she said, so the Liberals likely see the Central Okanagan-Similkameen-Nicola riding as important.

“In 2015, it was a two per cent split in the popular vote between the Conservatives and the Liberals. That’s quite a close race. Also, the New Democrats have a new candidate, who is quite high profile, but in general the NDP polling numbers have gone way down,” she said, explaining those voters might move their support to the Greens, but the Liberals would likely be the beneficiary to a drop in the NDP vote. “I would expect the Liberals would be fighting hard for that seat.”

READ MORE: Federal leaders scatter across country as campaign ramps up in earnest

READ MORE: VIDEO: Liberals make childcare pledge, Greens unveil platform on Day 6 of campaign

The main issues in this election revolve around the delivery of services, the middle class and values.

Right now, the Conservatives are running their platform on taxation, which is strong, Hanlon added.

“We’ve seen a lot of messaging around spending and programs delivery and who can deliver these best,” he said. “I think you are going to see a lot of back and forth between the Liberals and Conservatives around that. You’re going to see big discussions around values and what the parties stand for. All the parties have been going after the Liberals on their ethics and that is not going to slow down anytime soon. The Liberals have had some very high-profile scandals,” he said, referring in particular to SNC Lavalin corruption scandal.

“You are getting discussions around values, taxation and you get a bit more of third discussion going on about who is best to lead Canada in the current economic environment and that is one where we are seeing governments increasingly protectionist.”

To report a typo, email: editor@keremeosreview.com.


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