In Vancouver Granville race, symbolism on the ballot
Loyalties split in riding that is a microcosm of Canada, with its patchwork of incomes, ages and ethnicities
By NANCY MACDONALD
Friday, October 18, 2019 Print Edition, Page A1
VANCOUVER -- Janet Moore's family is like a lot of leftleaning households in Vancouver Granville on the eve of the federal election: hopelessly conflicted.
Ms. Moore, a mother of two politically savvy preteens, thinks she will probably vote for Jody Wilson-Raybould, as she and her husband did in 2015, when she ran under the Liberal banner. The former attorney-general is "exactly the type of person" Ms. Moore wants representing her in Parliament.
The family even has one of Ms. WilsonRaybould's distinctive black campaign signs featuring a sun mask - representing her new beginnings as an independent candidate - on their tidy lawn in the city's rapidly gentrifying Mount Pleasant neighbourhood.
But Ms. Moore also believes climate change is the most pressing issue facing the country, and her dislike of the Conservatives is a shade stronger than her disillusionment with the Liberals. Her husband, meanwhile, is leaning Liberal and she worries he'll cancel her vote if he goes through with it. But he's not there, she says. Not yet.
Normally, Ms. Moore and her husband vote early. For now, the only thing they have decided on is to hold off voting until Election Day so they can make their final choice based on the most up-to-date polling.
They are hardly alone. Some nearby homes have campaign signs for both Ms.
Wilson-Raybould and for Taleeb Noormohamed, the Liberal candidate - signalling divisions within families, and voters themselves. Takeshi Kin, one of those with the dual signage, says he and his wife and daughter are still undecided. Theirs will also be a game-day decision.
Trudeaumania delivered a stunning majority to a party that had entered the 2015 campaign in third place and trending down under Liberal Leader Justin Trudeau.
But the party is fighting to hang on to deeply disenchanted Liberals and left-of-centre voters ahead of Monday's election. "Trudeau-meh-nia," is how political scientist David Moscrop describes the current national sentiment. But this isn't just a test of the Liberals' popularity, - it's also a test of Ms. Wilson-Raybould's own brand and perhaps of her long-term viability in federal politics, which in Canada remains a deeply partisan game.
Vancouver Granville, a patchwork of wildly varying of incomes, ages and ethnic groups, also functions as a microcosm of the country as a whole. The riding, one of a handful of new urban constituencies that debuted in 2015, includes pockets of two wealthy Vancouver neighbourhoods, Shaughnessy and Kerrisdale; working families; seniors; and a vibrant immigrant community with a strong Chinese presence. In 2015, Ms. Wilson-Raybould, a member of the We Wai Kai Nation of northern Vancouver Island, took 44 per cent of the vote. The Conservatives and the NDP - which ran a star candidate who had the endorsement of LeadNow, the strategic voting initiative - each earned 26 per cent.
Symbolically, politically, mathematically, it's hard to imagine there are more important constituencies to the Liberal brain trust. Vancouver Granville was ground zero for the party's implosion that began on Feb.
7, when the former attorney-general's concerns over political interference in the decision to proceed with the prosecution of engineering giant SNC-Lavalin were first made public by The Globe and Mail. This, along with the subsequent ousting of Ms.
Wilson-Raybould and Jane Philpott from the Liberal caucus, and the resignation from the party of another high-profile 2015 recruit, MP Celina Caesar-Chavannes, revealed what critics have suggested is a vindictive, duplicitous streak in Mr. Trudeau.
Taking Vancouver Granville would mark a major symbolic victory. And in a minority government, every seat counts.
Both the Liberals and Ms. Wilson-Raybould say that internal polling has them neck and neck and neither seems to have any idea where the chips will fall. "It's a complete toss up," said one campaign staffer for Mr. Noormohamed.
The riding's remaining support is split among the Conservatives, NDP, the Greens and the People's Party. The Tories' Zach Segal worked for two ministers in Stephen Harper's government. The NDP's Yvonne Hanson, a 24-year-old activist who helped shut down Vancouver's Burrard Street Bridge with the Extinction Rebellion, says she was driven to enter politics out of a fear of a "boiling future." The People's Party is running a one-time staffer from Ms. Wilson-Raybould's constituency office, Naomi Chocyk, a second-generation Canadian whose parents came from then-Communist Poland in 1981. The Greens, meanwhile, have endorsed Ms. Wilson-Raybould.
"Canada's Parliament is better with Jody Wilson-Raybould in it," says party leader Elizabeth May, adding that in a minority parliament, Ms. Wilson-Raybould will have a very important role to play.
Throughout the campaign, both Mr. Segal and Mr. Noormohamed, who worked as an executive on the 2010 Winter Olympics, repeatedly attacked Ms. Wilson-Raybould for lacking a party affiliation.
Mr. Noormohamed worked in the Privy Council Office under both Jean Chrétien and Paul Martin. In 2004, while still a Young Liberal, he almost dethroned Hedy Fry at a nomination battle for Vancouver Centre. In the 2011 federal election, he ran for the Liberals in North Vancouver and, in 2012, he briefly considered a run for the Liberal leadership. Ahead of the last election, he organized a run for the nomination for Vancouver Granville but backed out when the Liberals made it clear they wanted Ms.
Wilson-Raybould to run there. This time around, Mr. Noormohamed was acclaimed without having to face a nomination battle.
On doorsteps, affordability and the outrageous cost of housing in the city are the top issues, he says, not SNC: "People are really struggling. They can't see the light of day on housing and daycare. That is what the issues are."
Still, questions about Mr. Trudeau's integrity are never far from the surface.
In a Kerrisdale gym last week, candidates were asked, "What should Canadians think of Mr. Trudeau's character and leadership?" The question, seemingly aimed at drawing out Ms. Wilson-Raybould, was met with booming laughter as she stared straight ahead, stone-faced.
"I have never been one to cast personal aspersions," Ms. Wilson-Raybould said, avoiding mentioning Mr. Trudeau by name. "I will say this: I believe our political system has got to the point where MPs have become responsible to the Prime Minister and unelected people in the [Prime Minister's Office]." Don't vote for someone to be Ottawa's voice in our riding, she added.
"Get out and vote for the person who can best represent your voice in Ottawa." For Liberals, the split with Ms. WilsonRaybould appears absolute. She says less than 10 per cent of caucus will speak to her, which they do under the cone of silence, fearing reprisals from the PMO. Her mentor, former prime minister Paul Martin, declined comment for this piece. On the Thanksgiving weekend, Bob Rae, the former interim Liberal leader, was out stumping for Mr. Noormohamed, although party strategists are keeping Mr. Trudeau from appearing in the riding.
For her part, Ms. Wilson-Raybould acknowledges that being summarily cast out of the Liberal fold was painful and confusing: "I'm never going to be able to understand it - and I'm glad about that."
Blind loyalty, she added, is precisely what's wrong with the current party system. She argues that too many MPs think of themselves as serving the prime minister or unelected people within the offices of the prime minister and party leaders. In a representative democracy, she says, MPs should be answering to their constituents.
Ms. Wilson-Raybould, unencumbered by Liberal dictates since her ousting, has come out against the Trans Mountain Pipeline expansion. She supports pharmacare and the decriminalization of small amounts of drugs. She remains a strong proponent of electoral reform and says she was "appalled" by the government's recent decision to challenge a landmark humanrights ruling to compensate First Nations children harmed by on-reserve child-welfare systems.
John Moody, a retiree living in Mount Pleasant with his wife, both New Democrats, voted Liberal for the first - and possibly the final - time in the last election.
They're voting for Ms. Wilson-Raybould this time around because she is "straightforward and stands her ground," said Mr.
Moody, saying that his second-favourite Liberal, Ms. Philpott, was also kicked out of the Liberal fold. Imagine, he says, his eyes twinkling conspiratorially, if she and Ms.
Wilson-Raybould held the balance of power in a minority Liberal Parliament?
Families are divided over who to vote for in Vancouver Granville, independent candidate Jody Wilson-Raybould or Liberal Taleeb Noormohamed.
DARRYL DYCK/THE GLOBE AND MAIL
Independent candidate for Vancouver Granville Jody Wilson-Raybould speaks during the B.C. Assembly of First Nations annual general meeting at Vancouver's Musqueam Community Centre last month.
DARRYL DYCK/THE CANADIAN PRESS