At least we got to know Jack
Jack’s been here.
OK, Stephen and Michael, now it’s your turn.
Give NDP leader Jack Layton full credit for campaigning in Prince George this week. The local New Democrats say it’s the first time that federal leader campaigned in this city since Audrey McLaughlin did it in 1993. Kim Campbell was apparently here that year too.
And Layton makes no bones about it: he and the New Democrats think the Cariboo-Prince George and Prince George-Peace River ridings are winnable for them. The NDP finished second behind the Conservatives in 2008 … a distant second.
But this time around Jay Hill is gone, putting the Prince George-Peace River riding more in play than it ever was. It’s still an uphill battle though.
In Cariboo-Prince George, the Liberals have parachuted in a candidate indicating they don’t think this riding is winnable for them (they’ve probably written off Prince George-Peace River, but at least candidate Ben Levine is from the city). The Liberals’ action works in New Democrat candidate Jon Van Barneveld’s favour, making it more of a two-candidate race (although it now has six).
The race will be between incumbent Dick Harris and Van Barneveld … the wily old veteran and the brash newcomer.
In Prince George-Peace River, the tables are turned. New Democrat Lois Boone is the wily old veteran and Conservative Bob Zimmer is the brash newcomer. And, as in Cariboo-Prince George, the race will be between the Tories and the NDP.
Which brings us back to Layton’s visit. There is no doubt a leader’s visit will always boost the fortunes of the party’s local candidate. It shows the candidate is at least on the leader’s radar and, perhaps, cares about the riding. During an election, a leader’s visit means there might be some question as to who is going to win the riding and they want their person to win it.
Many might think that the New Democrats’ hopes here are pipe dreams. But at least they haven’t written the ridings off.
Which brings us to Conservative leader Stephen Harper and Liberal leader Michael Ignatieff. Will they visit Prince George?
As mentioned above, by parachuting a candidate in to the Cariboo-Prince George riding the Liberals have conceded defeat. It’s a tight race and the demands on leaders’ time are even tighter. Ignatieff will spend his time in ridings he thinks they can win.
On the Conservative side, they obviously feel these two ridings are safely in Conservative hands. After all, they’ve been held by a Reform/Alliance/Conservative MP since 1993 … the last time a leader was here during an election campaign. Just as with Ignatieff, Harper won’t waste his time in ridings that he feels are safely in his pocket.
The downside to all this … whoever is elected on May 2, their party will form the government of all of Canada and their leader will be prime minister of all of Canada. Last we checked, Prince George is part of all of Canada. It would be nice to have a leader - and a sitting prime minister, for that matter - visit once in a while.
Kudos to Layton for bringing his national campaign to Prince George.
- Prince George Free Press