If anyone doubted whether the federal election campaign is in full swing, those doubts were erased with the return to the Island last week of NDP leader Tom Mulcair.
It’s not uncommon for party leaders to make surprise appearances in locales far from the halls of Parliament between sessions in the House, especially in election years. Mulcair’s presence at events in Ladysmith and Mill Bay and a major rally in Victoria on Thursday was without a doubt timed well, an attempt to surf the orange tsunami created by the reality-check win by the provincial NDP in Alberta.
Having the leader in town – it was his second trip to the Island in two months – no doubt boosted the public exposure to NDP candidates running in the reconfigured ridings of Cowichan-Malahat-Langford and Esquimalt-Saanich-Sooke, as well as Victoria, although all three have an NDP MP in their existing state.
But let’s not forget that the NDP has fluctuated in national popularity since it roared to official opposition status in the 2011 election, thanks mainly to huge victories in Quebec.And there was clearly work still to be done in B.C., where Stephen Harper’s Conservatives took 21 of 36 seats – the NDP won 12, despite the popularity of then-leader Jack Layton – and received almost 50 per cent of the popular vote.
The Island, which has long been a provincial NDP stronghold, has three of its five federal seats flying NDP colours at present, with Green Party of Canada leader Elizabeth May (Saanich and the Islands) and longtime Conservative MP and current cabinet minister John Duncan (Vancouver Island North) the exceptions.
Mulcair’s timing to revisit the Island to pound home the message that his party is the only one with a hope of defeating Harper makes sense following the Alberta NDP win, but is also a sign the NDP is concerned about losing voters to the Greens, some pundits say.
Whatever the reason, whenever federal leaders come to town they tend to make people stand up and pay attention. And that’s a good thing for the political process in general, no matter what party they represent.