Media pundits were quick to see promise for the provincial NDP following the nomination meeting for the riding of Chilliwack-Hope Saturday.
Certainly the party stands to do better than it has in the past. But it’s a little early to declare a win for the NDP quite yet.
Party members have a right to feel good about their prospects. They have a veteran campaigner at their helm – a candidate who has remained visible throughout previous attempts (provincially and federally) to win seats in the region. Gwen O’Mahony is polished and personable, and is coming off a nomination meeting that drew national attention.
She also has the advantage of fighting a byelection while her party is surging in the polls.
And the fact that it is a byelection offers O’Mahony an opportunity since byelections are rarely kind to governing parties.
But the biggest factor in her favour is the presence of another challenger on the right.
True, the BC Conservatives ran a candidate in the 2009 provincial election. But he only drew seven per cent of the vote. This time around the party – which has enjoyed higher visibility since the fight against the HST – sees real potential in star candidate John Martin, a UFV criminology professor and media columnist.
According to some, this fight on the right, could split the vote and open an avenue for O’Mahony and the provincial NDP.
It’s an encouraging scenario for party faithfuls who have never seen an NDP candidate elected in this historically conservative area before.
But they should keep the champaign corked for now.
This election will be decided by how effectively each candidate can get out the vote.
And here, the BC Liberals have a clear advantage.
Not only can they count on the organizational support of the Liberal constituency association for Chilliwack-Hope, they can also benefit from the formidable strength of federal conservatives. Laurie Throness, who is expected to be acclaimed as the Liberal candidate this weekend, is a former assistant to the former MP and immensely popular Chuck Strahl.
The road to victory in Chilliwack-Hope will not be easy. And while it’s tempting to declare a winner before an election date has even been called, there remains much campaigning before voters here have their say.