Liberals join Pitt Meadows-Maple Ridge-Misison election race

Candidate is former school trustee Mandeep Bhuller

The federal Liberal party candidate for Pitt Meadows-Maple Ridge-Mission is  former school trustee Mandeep Bhuller.

The federal Liberal party candidate for Pitt Meadows-Maple Ridge-Mission is former school trustee Mandeep Bhuller.

The Liberals have now named a candidate for the federal election race and he’s local, with experience in government.

Former school trustee Mandeep Bhuller was named the candidate for Pitt Meadows-Maple Ridge-Mission on Thursday.

“We’ve had five years of minority government and I think it’s counterproductive to where we need to be. I see a very short-term, get-me-elected vision from [Prime Minister] Stephen Harper,” Bhuller said.

A Liberal government would offer a long-term, more compassionate approach, he added.

“We hope to get back to these progressive ways if the voter gives us a chance.”

Bhuller is a consultant who helps fundraise for non-profit groups. He’s about to open an election office in downtown Maple Ridge and has a group of about 10 to help out in the campaign, which was expected to start today, following a Liberal non-confidence vote in the House of Commons.

As became apparent in the B.C. Liberal leadership contest, Bhuller said social media will become part of the vote strategy as it allows candidates to connect with people in their homes.

Bhuller also says he’ll be reaching out and seeking the support of local politicians.

Maple Ridge and Pitt Meadows municipal councils are dominated by B.C. Liberal party members, and during the 2009 provincial election both mayors endorsed Liberal candidate Ken Stewart.

Stewart, however, lost in Maple Ridge-Pitt Meadows.

Conservative incumbent MP Randy Kamp welcomes Bhuller to the race.

But he said Thursday from Ottawa that he wasn’t taking his 2008 election results for granted, even though he earned 26,512 ballots, almost twice that of his nearest rival, NDP candidate Mike Bocking.

An election could also see Kamp lose his executive-assistant, Mark Strahl, who announced recently that he’s running in his father Chuck Strahl’s former riding of Chilliwack-Fraser Canyon.

Kamp will be carrying the party message that the recent proposed federal budget, which led to the government’s defeat, is a good one with low taxation and job creation versus the opposition’s approach which he described as high tax and soft on crime.

He dismissed a recent ruling of contempt against the government because it didn’t provide information on prison expansion or new jet fighter costs.

“Really, all that shows is that the opposition had the majority in that committee.”

That report may never be voted on if the government is defeated today. The same fate could await bill S-10, which includes minimum six-month jail terms for people growing more than six marijuana plants.

It’s then up to the next government to decide whether to reintroduce that bill, Kamp added.

Bhuller follows Dan Olson, who earned only 3,394 votes for the Liberals in the 2008 election, fewer than Green Party candidate Mike Gildersleeve.

Liberal campaigners though aren’t even thinking about that number and expect the usual 10,000 votes to be a minimum.

Riding association president Brian Rice said previous Liberal leader Stephane Dion and the weakness of the riding association might have explained the 2008 results.

But Rice says he’s been rebuilding it for the past two years. “I feel very confident that [current leader] Michael Ignatieff is going to inspire Liberals to vote Liberal again.

“He’s not the cold, aloof man that the Conservatives have made him out to be, either. It’s taken him some time to learn how to communicate his ideas in a way that’s political, not academic.”

Rice also said voting for NDP candidate Craig Speirs is a vote to keep Stephen Harper in office because the NDP has no chance of forming government.

Peter Tam is running for the Green party, bringing to four the number of candidates so far.