NDP election ‘surge’ bodes well for B.C. party

The NDP election “surge” that boosted it to official opposition status federally could impact B.C. election results, especially in swing ridings, says Cliff Roulston, head of the provincial party’s Chilliwack riding association

The NDP election “surge” that boosted it to official opposition status federally could impact B.C. election results, especially in swing ridings, says Cliff Roulston, head of the provincial party’s Chilliwack riding association.

“It’s hard to measure things here in Chilliwack. We’re not a swing riding,” he said.

But the growing share of votes won by federal NDP candidate Gwen O’Mahony in this traditionally conservative riding bodes well for the B.C. party, he said.

O’Mahony was a distant second to Conservative Mark Strahl, but she still gained about seven per cent more votes than the NDP candidate in the 2008 election.

“If we can do the same thing provincially, we’re a player,” Roulston said.

Al Ens, president of the federal Chilliwack riding association, didn’t want to predict any direct impact of the surge on the provincial election.

He noted that most of the surge came from the party’s election victories in Quebec, once the stronghold of the Liberal Party.

“It’s hard to tell about the impact in B.C., but no doubt there is a feel-good in the party right now,” he said.

And that “new energy” could result in a more active NDP membership, which is critical in an election campaign.

“I know we’re looking forward to (the B.C. election) in Chilliwack and Chilliwack-Hope,” he said, “and I’m sure that’s the same across the province.”

Ens said Canadians are now going to see what the Conservatives will do with a majority government, “and that scares me to a large degree.”

But voters will also see “more clearly defined” positions from the NDP opposition as it replaces the Liberals in that role, for the first time in Canadian history.

“(NDP Leader Jack) Layton isn’t shy about staking out his positions,” Ens said.

Meanwhile, Conservative MP Mark Strahl is jubilant about going to Ottawa for the first time as part of a majority government.

“We’re just so thrilled with the Conservative majority,” he said. “Three or four days ago the pollsters were saying it wasn’t possible.”

But with its majority power, Strahl said the party will introduce an omnibus bill in the first 100 days that gets tough on crime and expands mandatory sentencing, “legislation that we’ve been waiting for a long time and now with a majority we can make it happen.”

The long gun registry, another long-time target of the Tories, will also finally be shot down.

“That’s as good as dead,” Strahl said.

Those issues, along with the economy and health care, were the issues voters elected a Conservative government to address, he said.

Strahl downplayed the NDP electoral gains, noting instead the “challenge” the party faces to get all those rookie MPs up to speed about parliamentary procedures.

He said the sight of a “decimated” Bloc Quebecois gave him a “beautiful feeling,” and the near-death of the federal Liberal Party was its “just reward for forcing this election.”

rfreeman@theprogress.com

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