Candidates jockey for position in federal election race

The federal election campaign got off to a fast start in the Chilliwack-Fraser Canyon riding this weekend.

The federal election campaign got off to a fast start in the Chilliwack-Fraser Canyon riding this weekend.

Conservative candidate Mark Strahl issued a news release Saturday, a day after the Tory minority government fell on a contempt of Parliament motion, warning the opposition that they will “pay a price for forcing the election on Canadians.”

“It’s time for a Conservative majority, so these sorts of political games can’t derail our economic progress,” he said Monday in a telephone interview.

Strahl said MPs should be in Ottawa working on the country’s economic action plan, rather than out stumping for votes on the campaign trail.

Liberal candidate Diane Janzen said she talked to hundreds of people in the Pemberton and Chilliwack areas over the weekend, and the “common theme” she heard from voters was “what the candidate will do, not how they will bash the other guy.”

There is a “huge backlog” of infrastructure needs in the riding, like a new Vedder Bridge and flood protection in the Pemberton area, she said.

“That’s the kind of thing I’m hearing at the doorstep.”

Janzen said she would be issuing a complete election platform Monday, similar to one she used in her successful campaign for a Chilliwack council seat.

Strahl said Janzen ought to know from her council experience about the “extensive” infrastructure funding the Conservative government has made in the Chilliwack area.

“I’m not going to attack anyone personally,” he said, but Janzen will have to defend the record of the federal Liberals.

Strahl said while the Liberal Party leader is publicly ruling out a coalition government with the New Democrats, that’s not what happened before the last federal election in 2008 when then-Liberal Party Leader Stephane Dion signed an accord with NDP Leader Jack Layton.

“They said the same thing last time,” Strahl said. “We think they’re going to try it again.”

Green Party candidate Jamie Hoskins said the departure of popular Tory MP Chuck Strahl from the political scene, and a split in the conservative vote will boost the party’s election numbers this time around.

Last election, the Greens edged out the Liberals in this riding to take third place behind the NDP and the Conservatives. The Greens won 4,107 votes or nearly nine per cent of the total 47,941 valid ballots cast in 2008 while the Liberals took 3,990 votes or 8.52 per cent of the total.

The NDP finished a distant second to the Conservatives, taking 8,791 votes – about 19 per cent – compared to the whopping 29,198 votes – 62 per cent – cast for Conservative candidate, Chuck Strahl.

But Hoskins said he believes the controversy over Mark Strahl’s nomination, and the entry of small-c conservative Janzen in the race as the Liberal candidate, will split the conservative vote and improve the Green Party’s election numbers.

He said the party is focusing its campaign in this riding on youth and seniors who are “bearing the brunt of the economic crisis.”

NDP candidate Gwen O’Mahony issued a new release Monday laying the blame for the HST and its impact on small businesses in the riding squarely on the Conservative government.

“These businesses don’t need their hard-earned tax dollars spent on massive jet fighter contracts,” she said. “They need government to stop hurting local businesses with regressive HST taxes.”

But Marxist-Leninist candidate Dorothy-Jean O’Donnell, who got only 113 votes in the last election, took the entire political system to task.

She said voters are “so disgusted with what passes for politics” as played by the mainstream parties that only about 40 per cent cast a ballot in 2008.

“We need a workers’ opposition in Parliament,” she said, and direct involvement of the public in budget-making.

“Workers themselves have to sit together (in Parliament) and ask the tough questions,” she said.