Criminology professor and Esquimalt councillor Randall Garrison hugs campaign volunteer co-ordinator Veronica Harrison at his election night headquarters at Gorge Vale Golf Club

Criminology professor and Esquimalt councillor Randall Garrison hugs campaign volunteer co-ordinator Veronica Harrison at his election night headquarters at Gorge Vale Golf Club

Garrison ready to face Ottawa

  • May. 6, 2011 1:00 p.m.

Esquimalt-JDF riding goes orange after West Shore leaders bank on blue

Randall Garrison will be one of about 100 rookie MPs sitting in the House of Commons when the 41st Parliament resumes.

But Esquimalt-Juan de Fuca’s newly elected NDP MP doesn’t expect he’ll face too much of a learning curve.

“I’ve been doing this kind of work all my life, whether for community organizations, non-governmental organizations, or at the council table,” Garrison, 60, said. “I’ll have to learn a new forum, but it’s not different from the work I’ve always been doing.”

Garrison came out ahead of Conservative rival Troy DeSouza by about 400 votes, although the count isn’t official for two weeks.

“Once the results are confirmed, we’ll start to make plans for Ottawa and setting up a constituency office,” Garrison said.

He’ll also officially resign his seat on Esquimalt city council and let Camosun College know he won’t be returning as a criminal justice professor.

In the meantime, there’s a lot of people who want to talk to him. When he checked his phone and email on the morning after being elected he had about 60 messages from people wanting an appointment.

“There’s a lot of work to do here already,” he said, noting his priorities remain as the issues he campaigned on — sustainable transportation to ease congestion on the Trans Canada Highway, supporting families and veterans, and protecting military jobs at CFB Esquimalt.

While he hadn’t yet seen the demographic breakdown of who voted for him, Garrison suspected his success depended on receiving the vote of the many young families who live on the West Shore. Youth voters were also targeted in his campaign.

“We had a very strong social media campaign and a very strong response from youth. My campaign team is probably the youngest campaign team I’ve ever seen,” he said, adding that his sign coordinator was a Grade 11 student at Belmont secondary — not even old enough to vote.

“Youth were very involved in this campaign and that’s the message we carried out into the public — that youth can make a difference.”

Voter turnout increased slightly in Esquimalt-JDF and nationally.

Nation-wide 61.4 per cent of voters cast a ballot, up from 59.1 per cent in 2008. Locally, turnout was above the national average, with 66.2 per cent participation, up from 64.6 per cent in the previous election.

With incumbent MP Keith Martin (Liberal) resigning his seat, pundits predicted a close race, and indeed it was. Both on their third shot at Esquimalt-JDF, Garrison squeaked in the win with 26,198 votes to DeSouza’s 25,792 votes, a difference of 406 or 0.6 per cent of the ballots.

The new Liberal candidate, Lillian Szpak was a distant third, behind by nearly 20,000 votes.

“I think here the Liberal vote was artificially high (in 2008) because of Keith Martin — who was a fine person who drew votes from all across the political spectrum,” Garrison said. “I think we’ve reverted back to the normal B.C. pattern here, where it’s actually New Democrats who beat Conservatives.”

Reaction to NDP win in Esquimalt-JDF

With Garrison’s win Monday, Esquimalt-JDF has retained its long-standing opposition status, to the chagrin of West Shore pundits.

The mayors of Colwood and Langford say they’ve got nothing against Garrison — but they’d rather have an MP from the ruling party.

As a municipal lawyer for Langford and as someone who opened doors to Conservative cabinet ministers, DeSouza was a familiar face to many West Shore politicians.

“Troy did a great job getting infrastructure dollars to Langford,” said Langford Mayor Stew Young on election night. “We had hoped his hard work would result in a seat in Ottawa.”

Colwood Mayor Dave Saunders credited DeSouza with helping bring the prime minister to the West Shore at least three times in the past few years.

“Will it be more difficult to without an MP sitting in government to secure (federal) funding? Absolutely,” Saunders said. “But we are used to that, we’re used to not having a sitting member. It’s business as usual.

“But the positive thing is we have a stable government, something we haven’t had for a long time.”

Saunders hopes Garrison becomes a strong advocate for helping solve traffic woes dogging the West Shore. “The No. 1 issue remains traffic congestion not only for the West Shore, but the entire region.”

West Shore Chamber of Commerce boss Dan Spinner said he’s looking forward to meeting and working with the new Esquimalt-JDF MP.

Spinner suspects Garrison will be a keen ally on investing in commuter rail on the E&N line, a much cheaper proposition than the recently released $950 million rapid transit plan.

“Garrison looks to be on top of the issues,” Spinner said.