Federal Election

Control of Parliament could rest on a handful of ridings – including Agassiz and Harrison’s

UFV political science professor says Mission-Matsqui-Fraser Canyon result could play key role

Agassiz and Harrison voters could end up playing a key role in who ends up running the country after next week’s election.

Federal races in the city have largely been landslides in recent years, but the first election in the newly created riding of Mission-Matsqui-Fraser Canyon in 2015 led to a narrow win for Liberal Jati Sidhu in the final race to be called across the country.

While a triumph for Sidhu and the Liberals, that single result didn’t have a massive impact on the country as a whole. But this year could be a different story, says Hamish Telford, University of the Fraser Valley political science professor.

The Mission-Matsqui-Fraser Canyon riding is huge, stretching from Ashcroft and Lillooet in the north and south to Mission and Abbotsford. Thousands of Abbotsford residents who live north of Maclure/Upper Maclure and Bateman roads will vote in the riding, as well as the thousands in small towns like Agassiz, Harrison and Harrison Mills. And their ballots could also have a profound impact on the future of the country.

MORE: FULL LOCAL ELECTION COVERAGE

Current polls suggest that the possibility of a Parliamentary “mess” is possible after all the votes are counted Monday. With the Greens and the NDP polling strongly, and neither the Liberals nor the Conservatives pulling away from the other, a minority Parliament seems the most likely outcome. And it’s possible that just a few seats could determine who has enough power to form the next government.

“B.C. could be a determining factor in the final outcome, tilting the balance one way or the other,” Telford told The News. “I think that Mission-Matsqui-Fraser Canyon is a seat that’s up for grabs.”

The Conservatives have reason to think the seat is flippable, Telford said. But the Liberals are also campaigning hard – and spending considerably. Sidhu has spent twice as much as all other local candidates combined on Facebook – the only advertising area for which figures are available.

RELATED: Incumbents in Abbotsford ridings heavily outspending challengers on Facebook

Although Telford said he would personally prefer a clear result from Monday’s vote, he said the political science side of him sees a potential hung Parliament as a “great teaching opportunity.”

He noted that although Canada has a Parliamentary system, its political culture is “essentially presidential,” with elections and voters increasingly focused on the leaders.

He said he spoke at a local school where students suggested that the upcoming election was to elect a prime minister. And Conservative Andrew Scheer said Thursday he thought the party that wins the most seats should get to govern.

That, Telford said, “is consistent with where our political culture is, but not where our Parliamentary system is at.”

Justin Trudeau remains Prime Minister, even during an election and immediately after, and the Parliamentary system gives the prime minister of the day the first opportunity to try to win the confidence of the House of Commons, even if his or her party doesn’t have the largest number of seats. In such cases, the PM can try to appeal to other parties. If he fails, only then does the Governor-General traditionally ask the leader of another party if he or she could amass enough votes to take over and govern.

The difference of one or two seats can easily swing the future of the country in such a scenario, and as British Columbians learned in 2017. That year reacquainted many with the rules of Canada’s political system after the BC Liberals won one more seat than the NDP, but not a full majority. Christy Clark, who as Premier got the first chance, failed to win the confidence of the house. That left the NDP with a chance to cobble together a slim coalition with the aid of three Green Party seats.

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