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OPINION: A brief look at the present and past of Chilliwack federal elections

Canadians watched with bated breath this week as Justin Trudeau visited the governor general to ask that Parliament be dissolved, and that Canada’s 43rd election be called.

Excitement in the air!

Enthusiasm among the electorate!

Let’s talk federal politics!

What’s that? Not paying attention?

OK, as summer winds down, for many people work winds back up, and for most parents of kids between the ages of five and 17, it’s back to school and activities and all the stress and changing schedules.

And when it comes to federal politics, it might garner the most attention in the national media, but most of our day-to-day lives are more directly affected by what goes on in provincial politics in Victoria and municipal politics at Chilliwack city hall.

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Even most people not paying attention know these five names: Justin Trudeau, Andrew Scheer, Jagmeet Singh, Elizabeth May, Maxime Bernier.

But it occurred to me that a lot of ink has been spilled in the last half-decade or so over how much Chilliwack is changing. More and more people are coming to town thanks to provincial in-migration, and inter-provincial, and even international migration to the Eastern Fraser Valley.

Many newcomers may be unfamiliar with federal politics, locally.

So here’s a brief roundup of recent history of federal politics in the electoral district that includes Chilliwack.

For a long time, this has been Conservative/Strahl country. Our incumbent Member of Parliament is Mark Strahl, the 41-year-old who won elections for the Conservatives most recently in 2015 and firstly in 2011. That was the year when he took over the helm of the riding from his father, Chuck Strahl who was an MP from 1993 to 2011.

Up against the younger Strahl in 2019 is, firstly, Liberal candidate Kelly Velonis. Under the last name Janveaux at the time, the youth advocate finished 10th in the race for the seven Chilliwack school board seats in the 2018 municipal election. Velonis replaces Louis De Jaeger as the local Liberal candidate. De Jaeger lost to Strahl in 2015 but received the most votes of a small “c” conservative opponent here in a long time with 34 per cent of the vote to Mark Strahl’s 42 per cent.

As for the NDP, they’ve got no local candidate in 2019, at least yet. In 2015, the NDP received 18 per cent under UFV professor Seonaigh MacPherson, and in 2011, New Democrat Gwen O’Mahony was the second-place finisher garnering 26 per cent of the vote to Mark Strahl’s 57 per cent.

The Green Party, which is snapping at the heels of the NDP in polls across Canada, even stealing candidates in the Maritimes, has chosen the aptly named Arthur Green. Green is previously unelected but also ran provincially for the party in Fraser-Nicola in 2017.

Also running in the riding for Maxime Bernier’s upstart People’s Party of Canada (PPC) is high school teacher Robert Bogunovic.

As for Chilliwack-Hope, the electoral district itself was created just seven years ago when federal electoral boundaries were redistributed. Chilliwack-Hope is geographically much smaller than the previous riding, Chilliwack-Fraser Canyon, which Mark Strahl won in 2011.

Before that, Chuck Strahl won as a Conservative in 2008, 2006 and 2004. Strahl was a reluctant Conservative, originally coming to politics as a Reform Party member, which changed to the Alliance, later morphing with other conservatives into today’s Conservative Party.

Strahl first won Chilliwack in the riding of Fraser Valley East for Reform in 1993. Then again for Reform he won Fraser Valley in 1997 and for Alliance in 2000.

(To further confuse matters, for a period in 2001, Strahl was among what was known as the “Democratic Representative Caucus,” a group of Alliance MPs who left that party to protest the leadership of Stockwell Day.)

Before that, the community was won by Progressive Conservatives Ross Belsher and Alex Patterson dating back 47 years to 1972.

In 1968, however, Fraser Valley East was won by a slim majority by Liberal Jerry Pringle over then So-Cred Alex Patterson.

So, at least the Liberals can say they have a more recent victory to remember in Chilliwack than do Toronto Maple Leaf fans in the Stanley Cup (1967).

Voting day in 2019 is Oct. 21.


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Paul Henderson

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