It’s a federal election year, and the Conservative Party is readying itself to try and win the Pitt Meadows-Maple Ridge riding back from incumbent MP Dan Ruimy and the Liberal Party.
The 43rd Canadian federal election will be held on Oct. 21, and already the Conservatives are already getting into election mode, with a nomination coming next month.
Davis Friesen and Marc Dalton are the two contenders who have put their names forward for the nomination. Jan. 25 is the deadline for new members to pay $15 and join the party, and a vote will follow in mid-February.
The politicking starts now.
“It’s the beginning of what’s going to be an exciting election campaign,” predicted Friesen.
Friesen noted Ruimy won the riding by less than two-and-a-half per cent of the vote in 2015 in a photo-finish election race. Ruimy had 17,673 votes compared with Conservative Mike Murray’s 16,373 and NDP Bob D’Eith’s 15,450. Green Peter Tam was a distant fourth with 2,202 votes, and independent Steve Ranta had 252 supporters.
Friesen said the riding is seen by all parties as a key battleground, along with its north Fraser neighbours.
“There is a lot of opportunity in B.C.,” he said. “The focus is on the nomination right now.”
He is a Pitt Meadows resident, and has worked with Conservatives including former MP Randy Kamp, as campaign manager for Conservative candidate Mike Murray and as constituency assistant to Mark Strahl, MP for Chilliwack-Hope.
He said a key issue for constituency residents is housing affordability, which he views as a broken promise. The Liberals pledged to make life easier on the middle class, but the national debt is rising, housing is getting out of reach for the average family, and a new carbon tax “makes everything more expensive, he said.
“And homelessness needs to be addressed,” he added, saying it is a nationwide issue that must be tackled by all three levels of government.”
Friesen said new Conservative Leader Andrew Scheer’s party also needs a new face in the local riding, and that having Dalton as a candidate is “not putting our best foot forward.”
“He’s got a lot of political baggage that he’s got to answer for,” he said.
“I know Ottawa, and I know the community.”
Dalton said Friesen lacks the experience he brings, after eight years as MLA. Dalton actually taught Friesen in high school in Pitt Meadows. He called him “a fine fellow.”
“What I bring to the table is experience, knowing how to get things done, and name recognition,” he said. “We need to win this seat back again.
“Look at who has the best chance at winning the seat.”
He said people in the riding are worried about the decisions by Trudeau’s Liberals.
“A lot of people are concerned about the Liberal government and the way they have managed,” said Dalton. “The government has proven to be incompetent in many respects.”
An example, he said, was buying the Trans Mountain pipeline for $4.5 billion, and the expansion now appears to face more challenges.
“There is no plan for reducing the deficit – they’re not really serious about fiscal management,” accused Dalton.
He said the government’s “amateurism” in international relations, particularly in Trudeau’s embarrassing trip to India and dealings with China, impacts the nation’s status.
Ruimy said Friesen’s criticism of the government about housing affordability is off target.
“When you look at our $40 billion National Housing Strategy, that speaks to our record on housing affordability,” said the incumbent MP.
He explained that over 10 years, the strategy funding will help provinces and local governments to build more affordable housing.
“That’s something I’m proud of.”
Similarly, he said the federal government has a national poverty reduction strategy launched late last year that aims to lower chronic homelessness by 50 per cent as one of its targets. He said the federal government may not be as directly involved as other levels of government, but it is making resources available.
Of his Conservative opponents, he said “they’re both nice people, and I’ll look forward to the challenger, whoever the winner is.”
He will continue to focus on community involvement with round tables and town halls, and advocating for people in the constituency on a casework basis.
For example, he encouraged Alouette River Management Society and other groups to get involved in the Student jobs program, and the impact locally went from 69 jobs and $290,000 in salaries when he took over, to 179 jobs and more than $500,000 in pay for students last summer.
He also advocated for funding for a local tech company.
“I focus on the things that I can have control over,” he said.
Peter Tam, the Green Party candidate from the last federal election, said he will take a break from politics after running in federal, provincial and local elections.
“It’s time to take a little break,” he said. “Our current MP Dan Ruimy is doing a pretty good job, so there’s no passion to displace him.”
Jagmeet Singh’s NDP Party has not yet organized a nomination process in the riding.
Former city councillor Craig Speirs ran for the New Democrats in this riding during the last federal election. He is no longer on council, having lost in a bid for the mayoralty.
Asked about running, he said “probably not.”
“The commute is a killer.”
Nor would he rule it out.
“You don’t get into politics for a season. It’s your life.”