The incumbent BC Liberals have such a strong lock on Abbotsford’s three ridings that competing parties are struggling to find “sacrificial lambs” to run against them, political scientist Hamish Telford says.
With just 70 days until election day on May 9, the University of the Fraser Valley professor called the seats “extremely safe” for the area’s three well-known MLAs: Mike De Jong, Darryl Plecas and Simon Gibson.
School trustee Preet Rai is the only major party candidate who has been declared to run against Abbotsford’s incumbent BC Liberal trio. He is representing the NDP in Mike De Jong’s Abbotsford West riding.
“I am not a sacrificial lamb,” Rai said. “I went into this with my eyes open … It’s going to be an uphill battle but I’m in this to win.”
Rai said he plans to run a campaign that both prosecutes the failings and shortcomings of Premier Christy Clark’s BC Liberal government and provides a positive alternative from the NDP and its leader John Horgan.
This is Rai’s seventh political campaign. He had two failed runs for school trustee before winning in three consecutive elections. In 2013, he took his first crack at becoming a provincial politician but lost to Gibson in Abbotsford Mission, earning just over half as many votes as the Liberal.
Rai said the NDP is in conversations with a number of potential candidates to run against Gibson and Plecas.
De Jong said he is not complacent about his seat in legislature, even though he has held it since 1994.
“We don’t take anything for granted,” he said. “I know I’ve been the MLA for a number of years, but each time you have to remind yourself that in this relationship I am the servant and the people are the boss and they need to be satisfied that you’re going to continue working on their behalf effectively.”
He said he has been continuing regular constituent outreach, both as MLA and in his role as finance minister, for which he conducted a recent telephone townhall.
“At this stage, it’s very much about ensuring people have a way to sit down and speak with me.”
The Green Party has not yet named candidates in any of the three ridings.
“It’s going to be extremely difficult for those parties to find candidates to run out here,” Telford said.
But he said strong candidates can still serve a vital part in the democratic process by holding incumbents to account during the campaign.
– with files from Tyler Olsen