Political high stakes in Chilliwack-Hope

Stakes are high in the coming by-election, and the BC Liberals won't conservative support bleed away to the BC Conservatives

A week ago in this space, it was mentioned how the run up to a by-election can shift a riding’s political topography. Saturday, we discovered just how much.

Diane Janzen, the only declared candidate seeking the Liberal nomination in the Chilliwack-Hope riding, walked away on the weekend, saying her earlier effort to run as a federal Liberal had become “a distraction.” (Janzen passes on BC Liberal nomination)

Clearly the stakes are high in the coming by-election, and the BC Liberals are not about to risk seeing any conservative support bleed away to the BC Conservatives.

The two parties have been goading each other for days, with Liberals questioning party leader John Cummins’ decision not to run in the riding, and Cummins saying Janzen’s decision to step aside is evidence candidates were “abandoning” the BC Liberals.

The NDP must be smiling.

New Democrats have the most to gain from a hotly contested battle between the Liberals and Conservatives. A split vote on the right opens an avenue to Victoria that they might not otherwise enjoy.

The BC Liberals know this. They neither want a divisive nomination process that further fractures their support base, nor a candidate that may lack the proper small “c” conservative credentials.

Whether Janzen’s conservative pedigree was insufficient to fend off an even more conservative attack, we’ll never know. But certainly her association with the federal Liberal Party and her challenge of Mark Strahl in the last federal election made her vulnerable.

By-elections are curious animals in the world of politics. Rather than a contest fought in the shadows of a larger campaign, they sit in the full glare of public – and political – attention. Rather than one race among many, they are the race.

With stakes that high, it’s not surprising party officials are less willing to take chances.

~ Greg Knill, Chilliwack Progress