The Esquimalt-Sooke-Saannich election battle could come down to the wire, says a University of Victoria professor.
Kim Speers, a professor in the faculty of human and social development at UVic, said with recent federal boundary changes, all parties believe they have a chance at winning the seat.
“There appears to be the belief that when boundaries change, it is a free-for-all in terms of who is going to win, but it is important to look at how much the boundaries have changed,” Speers said.
“In this case, the boundaries have changed where approximately half the riding is now represented by different parts of Saanich.”
Incumbent Randall Garrison, Conservative candidate Shari Lukens, Green Party candidate Frances Litman, Libertarian Josh Steffler and Liberal candidate David Merner are in the running.
The boundary of Esquimalt-Juan de Fuca electoral riding that Garrison represents is similar to the Esquimalt-Saanich-Sooke riding, which includes about 113,000 people in Esquimalt, Colwood, Metchosin, View Royal, Sooke and parts of Saanich.
Garrison won the Esquimalt-Juan de Fuca riding with 40.9 per cent of the vote in 2011, just slightly ahead of Conservative Troy DeSouza with 40.2 per cent. The NDP candidate won the hotly contested riding with a 406-vote margin.
The more than two-month campaign length could be a game-changer for political strategy, but runs the risk of losing voters’ interest, said Royal Roads associate professor David Black, a political expert..
“We are met with one of the most interesting elections in modern Canadian political history,” he said. “There’s simply more room for things to happen.”
Black said roughly 40 per cent of eligible voters have already decided what party to vote for. The remaining 60 per cent are referred to as “low-information voters,” a term Black stressed is not meant as an insult, but simply refers to voters who do not actively follow the political climate.
This group is also often referred to as the swing vote and they can be what makes an election interesting, he said.
Typically, such voters don’t start paying attention to the campaign until the last few weeks and are especially persuadable by television advertising.
However, he said, no one knows how these individuals will react to this unprecedented length of campaign. Black wondered if they would burn out because of the length.
“What we have here is a great experiment in Canadian democracy,” he said.
Low-information voters will be drawn out to vote in good elections. The more exciting, controversial, or close an election feels, the more likely these swing voters will cast their ballot. They want to feel like their vote made a difference and they voted for the winner, Black said.
Paul Holmes, social media guru and Sooke resident, co-hosts a regular podcast (johnpaulandmic.ca) on business and politics.
Holmes doesn’t expect many of the local candidates to drift too far from their party’s script. And he doesn’t believe most Canadians will start evaluating the issues and considering what kind of Canada they want to see during this election because of all of the hostility.
“I think it will be the negative campaign to end all negative campaigns,” he said. “I think it’s going to get nasty.”
He’s already sick of the mud-slinging being done on the national level, but wasn’t sure if it would trickle down to the local level.
“If that is the gist of the campaign and no one manages to get their message out, we could see voter turnout fall.”
– with files from Kevin Laird
Royal Roads University associate professor David Black, who also holds a doctorate in social and political thought, said several factors will influence the results of this election campaign besides its unprecedented length, and the depth of money the parties are bringing to the fight.
This is a tight race between the three top parties, potentially any of whom could win a minority government, he said, adding the possibility of any party winning a majority is highly unlikely.
A minority outcome in itself could be a very unique situation of potential alliances and changes in strategies, Black said.
Third-party groups, or political action groups (PACs), have been more active than ever leading up to the election call, he said, and these organizations are wielding more influence as they begin to look more like their American counterparts.
The New Democrats and the Conservatives are both in very rare positions. With the NDP arguably closer to power than ever, Black said.
“This creates a very interesting story… The political norm is being opened up.”
The Conservatives are in the unique situation of seeking a rare fourth mandate.