Frankly Speaking: Tough fight for Langley ridings

A federal election touches down in Langley

The federal election is planned for Tuesday, Oct. 21.

The campaign is not officially underway, but in every other way it has been going for months. The Liberal government is taking full advantage of the fact that the formal writ hasn’t dropped, and has announced billions of dollars in spending all across the country. Last Thursday (Sept. 5), Cloverdale-Langley City MP John Aldag was in Fort Langley to announce $3 million for a replacement of the Langley Centennial Museum, which will include a new museum and cultural centre operated in conjunction with the Kwantlen First Nation. This project has been in the planning stage for years and was formally announced by the Township of Langley in February, 2018, but the likelihood of it proceeding was low without federal funding.

Most of the candidates running in the two Langley ridings are already in place. Aldag is the only incumbent running.

The last federal election in 2015 was the first time in more than a decade that Langley voters elected two MPs. From 2004-2015, both the City and Township were part of one Langley riding, which was represented all those years by Conservative MP Mark Warawa.

This past year has been particularly unkind to the Conservative candidates of 2015. Warawa, who was elected to represent the new Langley-Aldergrove riding, died in office in June after a short but intense battle with cancer. He had already announced his plans to retire. Dean Drysdale, the former Township councillor who ran against Aldag in Cloverdale-Langley City for the Conservatives, died of ALS in August.

The Conservative candidates in this election are Tako van Popta in Langley-Aldergrove and Tamara Jansen in Cloverdale-Langley City. Liberal candidates are Leon Jensen in Langley-Aldergrove (he also ran in 2015) and Aldag in Cloverdale-Langley City.

Based on results of the last election, the contest in both ridings will be between the two parties. While the NDP had been gaining vote share in Langley over the past decade, the Liberals surged in 2015. Aldag is the first Liberal MP to represent a portion of Langley since 1953. He will be working hard to get re-elected, and Jensen was much more competitive in Langley-Aldergrove in 2015 than the Liberals have been in that part of Langley for many decades.

As the incumbent government, the Liberal party will be highly competitive in 2019. Both Langley and Cloverdale had been represented by Conservatives and their predecessor parties since 1974, and the Conservative party will try to hold its one seat and win back the other.

Other nominated or declared candidates thus far in Cloverdale-Langley City are: Rae Banwarie (NDP), Caelum Nutbrown (Green), Gurmant Grewal (Peoples’ Party) and Chris Schneider (National Citizens Alliance). In Langley-Aldergrove, other candidates are Stacey Wakelin (NDP), Kaija Farstad (Green), Natalie Cudmore (Peoples’ Party) and Alex Joehl (Libertarian).

In recent decades, local candidates have only played a small role in attracting votes. Most voters tend to make choices based on the party leaders and the policies they put forward. Much of this is due to the way voters get information. Campaigns are more visual than ever, with social media and, to a lesser degree, television, providing most of the exposure. Many voters pay very little attention until the final week or two.

Candidates will be doing their level best to convince voters that they and their parties are the best choice. It’s a tough job, so even if you don’t agree with them, be courteous if speaking to them or their campaign workers. All this is part of the democratic tradition that Canada has enjoyed for the past 152 years.

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