By KIM LUNMAN
The Globe and Mail
Victoria David Anderson casually rolled up to launch his election campaign in Victoria this week aboard a scooter in a suede jacket, grey slacks and sandals.
It wasn't a wetsuit, but the photo opportunity appeared to be a departure for the distinguished, white-bearded parliamentarian in a race to save his seat as B.C.'s highest-profile Liberal MP.
The Canadian Alliance is seen as the biggest threat to Mr. Anderson, a veteran Liberal and B.C.'s senior cabinet minister, in a battle for the Grits' only riding on Vancouver Island. The five other ridings surrounding the Victoria seat are solid Stockwell Day country, all held by Alliance MPs.
Mr. Anderson is not taking any chances, making the rounds of local radio shows, constituent coffee parties and a B.C. Sierra Club event this week to celebrate a government-funded eco-educational school bus.
"He's vulnerable," said David Turner, the riding's NDP candidate and a former mayor of Victoria. "People believe he's Ottawa's man in Victoria, not Victoria's man in Ottawa."
Mr. Anderson said he spends "100 days a year" in British Columbia. "The complaint is based on the idea that there's no value in doing the work you're elected to do as a member of Parliament and cabinet minister, in my case. Heavens, that's the job, to take part in national government."
The 63-year-old, two-term incumbent narrowly won his seat in 1997 over the Reform candidate, an anti-abortion activist who lost by 2,700 votes after letters emerged that she wrote to a church group promoting her Christian views. The NDP finished a close third.
This time, he faces a challenge from Bruce Hallsor, a 33-year-old commercial lawyer who has recruited 1,700 Alliance members and bills himself as belonging to "a new generation of leadership."
"He can scoot around all he wants," said Mr. Hallsor, who said he is eager to take over the riding.
The Alliance is bringing out its big guns. Mr. Day, the party's Leader, will be in Victoria tomorrow and former Reform Party leader Preston Manning is to attend a rally here on Tuesday.
The party also plans to package its Victoria-area incumbent MPs, Gary Lunn (Saanich-Gulf Islands) and Dr. Keith Martin (Esquimalt-Juan de Fuca), along with Mr. Hallsor in a joint campaign of print and television ads.
Mr. Anderson accuses the Alliance of targeting him along with Alberta's Anne McLellan and Saskatchewan's Ralph Goodale to wipe out the Liberals' most prominent Western cabinet ministers.
"The only area they've got left is the West and that's why they're turning inward," he said.
"In no shape or form are we targeting David," Mr. Lunn said. "If anyone is targeting David, it's the people of Victoria, not the Canadian Alliance. They want to see change."
Mr. Anderson, an Olympic silver medalist rower, was first elected Liberal MP for Esquimalt-Saanich in 1968. Defeated after one term, he became the B.C. Liberal leader and was elected to the provincial legislature. He was elected to Parliament again in 1993, and has since held portfolios in Fisheries, Transport and Environment.
Mr. Lunn, 42, said the Alliance represents youth and change. "We believe Canadians are looking for new leadership. David Anderson was elected in the 60s with Jean Chrétien. They represent the 60s style."
Mr. Anderson, who was surrounded by a delegation of Young Liberals when he made his scooter entrance at his campaign kickoff this week, deflects the "old-generation" criticism.
He said any attempt to play the age card could backfire in Canada's retirement capital. "In a riding where you have a lot of people who are in fact seniors, older than I am, you have to be a little cautious about dismissing people on the grounds of age."
Mr. Hallsor, a monarchist and self-described "policy wonk," said his issues in the campaign are the economy and electoral reform.
A former member of the B.C. Social Credit Party and the Progressive Conservatives, he switched to Reform in 1997 and served as B.C. campaign manager for Mr. Day's leadership bid. He is a former vice-chairman of the Victoria branch of Canada's Monarchist League. "It's one of the things that makes Canada a unique country and it certainly distinguishes us from the United States," he said.
University of Victoria political scientist Norman Ruff said strategic voting in the riding will likely work in Mr. Anderson's favour.
"It's going to be a very strong Alliance campaign and a race worth watching," he said. "You're going to vote against the arrogant Liberals or Stockwell Day's social conservatism."
National Green Party president Joan Russow is also running against Mr. Anderson. She said he may lose support as a result of Liberal policies on the environment.
Mr. Anderson may also lose support to the New Democrats as a result of the Liberals' environmental policies. He has come under fire from environmental groups for failing to get greenhouse gas emissions reduced and for recently proposed endangered-species legislation, widely criticized as too weak and since put on hold.
"I think he's in trouble," said author and environmentalist David Suzuki. "He's as knowledgeable as any politician to come into that position . . . but his government is not committed."
Said Mr. Anderson, during a break in campaigning: "Nobody owes me a vote." However, he adds: "There are lots of people who respect the work I've done on behalf of the community and behalf of the environment over many, many years."
Lawyer Mike O'Connor, who ran unsuccessfully as the Liberal candidate in Victoria in 1988, said local Grits are braced for a fight to win a third consecutive term for Mr. Anderson.
"It's Victoria's chance to keep a direct voice in cabinet," he said. "He's able to speak very strongly for the West. He's worked extremely hard and showed himself to be a real national figure."