Election 2017 draws near

Abbotsford electoral picture clarifies with last-minute candidate announcements.

With the 2017 provincial election set to begin in earnest in just days, questions about who, exactly, will be running to represent Abbotsford residents in the BC legislature have finally mostly been answered.

The NDP finally revealed the names of its final two candidates Thursday morning (see story), providing some clarity to a local race set to officially begin on Tuesday. Voters will go to the polls on May 9.

The last week has seen a flurry of activity from all three parties. Abbotsford’s three incumbent BC Liberal MLAs have attended multiple funding announcements; the BC Green Party announced two candidates; and the NDP has also now rounded out its local slate (see related story).

Now the hard part begins.

While appearing last Thursday at one of four media events held in Abbotsford by the provincial government over the space of a week, Abbotsford South MLA Darryl Plecas said “people are not exactly excited about the election.” The Liberals’ solution, Abbotsford-Mission MLA Simon Gibson said Wednesday, is to point to the the differences between his party and the NDP.

“That motivates many,” he said.

Aird Flavelle, whose candidacy for the Greens in Abbotsford South was announced earlier this week, said it’s up to those running for office to get people interested in the upcoming election and the issues at play.

University of the Fraser Valley political science professor Hamish Telford told The News that the BC Liberals have to overcome questions about fundrsising practices as well as voters’ inevitable thirst for change, which tends to surface the longer a governing party has been in power. The NDP, meanwhile, must convince the public they can be trusted to lead the province after 16 years in opposition.

While Gibson, Plecas and Abbotsford West BC Liberal MLA Mike de Jong are known entities, Telford said the Greens and NDP must prove they can field viable local campaigns.

Neither Andrew Christie nor Jasleen Arora, the NDP’s newly minted candidates for the Abbotsford-Mission and Abbotsford South ridings, have run for office before or had begun campaigning as of Thursday. But Preet Rai, the NDP’s candidate for Abbotsford West, has. Rai, a longtime school trustee who ran in the Abbotsford-Mission riding four years ago, is adamant that he can win, despite the area’s electoral history.

He told The News he has been door-knocking and has made hundreds of phone calls to voters, calling the response “positive” so far.

Over the last week, the BC Green have also announced two candidates – Jennifer Holmes in Abbotsford-Mission, and Aird Flavelle in Abbotsford South. Flavelle has run previously for the Greens and for city council. The party has yet to announce a candidate in the Abbotsford West riding.

Although funding announcements have garnered plenty of headlines, Telford isn’t sure of their influence on the election. The projects – which include a new courthouse, an expanded emergency room, a centre for youth in need, and improvements to Jubilee Park – address long-standing issues, but Telford said the timing might raise some hackles.

“I don’t think anybody in Abbotsford is going to say ‘No, we don’t want $15 million for our hospital. But on the other hand, they might say ‘Why now? We needed this money last year, or the year before or the year before that.'”

Gibson linked the announcements to a significant surplus in February’s budget. While there may be some cynicism, Gibson said “I think in general people are just very grateful our leading economy allows us to make these important announcements.”

– with files from Kelvin Gawley

Email: tolsen@abbynews.com

Twitter: @ty_olsen