EDITORIAL: West Shore election races begin to heat up

Addition of Esquimalt mayor shows Liberals playing hardball on Island

Although we’re weeks away from seeing the smiling faces of candidates popping up on lawns and medians throughout the community, it’s not a stretch to say that campaigning for the provincial election is in full swing.

Premier Christy Clark made it clear this week that the Liberals are targeting Vancouver Island ridings, with the announcement of a special jobs creation plan tailor-made for the Island. That’s understandable, based on the fact this election is shaping up to be a tight race across the province.

Both parties are eager to steal some seats they may not have campaigned hard for in the past. Despite her party’s success in the last four elections, convincing the electorate on Vancouver Island, traditionally an NDP stronghold, to vote Liberal has been a tough sell for the ruling party.

The West Shore’s Juan de Fuca and Esquimalt-Royal Roads ridings have both been held by the NDP since 2005.

Considering that Juan de Fuca MLA John Horgan has increased his margin of victory each time and successfully ran for the NDP leadership in 2014, it’s fair comment to suggest he’s the frontrunner.

As recent elections in B.C., Alberta and south of the border have demonstrated, however, there’s no such thing as a sure thing.

With NDP MLA Maurine Karagianis stepping down after three terms, the renamed Esquimalt-Metchosin riding could be the one to watch this time around. You could argue that the announcement this week that high-profile Esquimalt Mayor Barb Desjardins is running for the Liberals in that riding underlines Clark’s resolve to reverse the Liberals’ Island fortunes this time around.

How that plays out on the West Shore, where Desjardins is most recognized for her fight to keep a sewage treatment plant out of Esquimalt, will be key. The NDP are countering with Mitzi Dean, who has established a strong reputation as a champion for youth, families and the disadvantaged during her 10 years as executive director for Pacific Centre Family Services Association.

Stay tuned.