Garrison
Credit: Randall Garrison on Twitter

Incumbent Randall Garrison (left) is hoping to win the riding once again. 

It might be a four-way battle on the Island

We're not sure if you’ve heard, but there’s a federal election coming up quite soon. BCBusiness profiles the ridings in the province that are most vulnerable, according to 338Canada.com. Today’s edition focuses on Esquimalt–Saanich–Sooke.

We are 12 days away from a federal election that is really starting to heat up.

If a vicious English leaders debate wasn’t proof of that, nothing will be. And it appears that the leaders debate actually did something to move the needle, especially for the NDP.

But specific ridings are, of course, their own monsters. And, as has been the case for many of the B.C. ridings we’ve profiled in this series, the NDP is going to be hard-pressed to hang onto many of the seats it earned in the 2015 election. Recent polls have also indicated that the Green Party has seen a drop in support.

It’s important in Esquimalt-Saanich-Sooke, where all four major federal parties are lurking, hoping to steal a pivotal Vancouver Island seat.  

What happened previously?

The NDP’s Randall Garrison won the riding with a fair amount of ease in 2015, capturing 35 percent of the vote. Three other parties were somewhat in contention, though, with the Liberals (27 percent), the Greens (just shy of 20 percent) and the Conservative Party (17.5 percent) with decent showings.

The riding was created from two others for 2015, but redistributed results from 2011 show that the Conservatives would have performed quite well, only narrowly losing out to the Liberals.

Who’s running?

There are two familiar faces voters in the riding will recognize.

First, Garrison is back to defend his crown. He’s currently the LGBT issues critic for the NDP and serves as the party’s critic for national defence.

And David Merner, who placed second in 2015, is back. But he’s changed colours. The former Liberal candidate and lawyer decided in 2018 that he “could not support a party that serially breaks its promises.”

MernerDavid Merner

He’s built up his profile something fierce and has called for a safe drug supply to combat the opioid crisis. He rode a strong Canada-wide Liberal campaign to a good finish last time out. Can he capitalize again with a party that is gaining a lot of traction on Vancouver Island?

Taking Merner’s place with the Liberals is military veteran Jamie Hammond. He’s been a critic of Garrison’s performance in Parliament, and his presence in the riding may or may not have (it totally was) a factor in Harjit Sajjan visiting the area and making veteran-related promises.

The Conservatives will be represented by another Randall (!!!) in Dr. Randall Pewarchuk, a longtime Metchosin resident and dentist. He has been banging the “lower taxes” drum that the Conservative Party has long been playing.

People’s Party of Canada candidate Jeremy Gustafson has a cool Twitter handle and experience in the film industry. He was a former candidate with Glen Chernen’s Cedar Party of Vancouver, which sorta tells you what you need to know.

What are the key issues?

The environment looms large here, as do labour issues. There are a larger amount of older people here than the country average, while the median income hovers just above the national mark.

It must be noted that the candidates here are quite old, as well. Of the four major party candidates, Hammond and Merner are the youngest at 57 years old.

It’s safe to say that jobs will be a major factor in the towns and cities that make up EsquimaltSaanichSooke. The Green Party has generated a lot of momentum in neighbouring ridings, and it’s very possible that keeps going.

What do the polls say?

According to recent research, that’s a good bet. Things have been moving a lot in recent weeks, as the NDP had a big lead even a couple days ago. Of course, polling results can be extremely volatile.

So it needs to be taken with a grain of salt that the Green Party is currently ahead, according to 338Canada.

Merner is reportedly polling at just over 26 percent, while the three other parties come in at just above 23 percent each. That’s incredibly tight.

In a riding with a bunch of different communities, it might come down to which candidate makes the best impression among what is likely to be an engaged group of voters.

Prediction

So tough. Do the Greens just sweep southern Vancouver Island? It’s possible. There’s also a Conservative base here that could do some serious damage.

NDP leader Jagmeet Singh’s recent strong debate performance might help the party across the board, but is it enough to hold off the competition?

Given that we expect the Liberals to drop off a bit, we can see some of those votes going to the NDP, with the party also stealing some Green votes in fear of vote-splitting.

We’ll say the NDP takes this one, but we’re not confident about it. Merner looks like a force to contend with.