Cartoon by Ingrid Rice.

Cartoon by Ingrid Rice.

BUCHOLTZ: Liberal MPs to keep eyes on South Surrey voters

If Liberals go back to usual levels of support in byelection, the five Liberal MPs from this area may have tough time in 2019

Two years ago this week, the federal Liberals cruised to victory after a long and tiring election campaign.

They went from third place in the House of Commons to first, winning 184 seats after winning just 34 in 2011.

One of the keys to the party winning a majority government was its strong showing in B.C, a showing that surprised many. The Liberals won four of the five seats here.

They won seats in Mission, Kelowna, Maple Ridge and Whistler – places where there had not been Liberal MPs since the 1950s.

Party leader Justin Trudeau was a big reason. He contrasted favourably with incumbent prime minister Stephen Harper and NDP leader Thomas Mulcair. He brought a second generation of Trudeaumania to the often-staid world of politics.

For much of the past two years, the party has stayed high in the polls.

Part of this is continued enthusiasm for Trudeau and continued economic prosperity. Part has been due to the lack of opposition figures – the Conservatives were leaderless until May, and the NDP selected a new leader last week.

However, many B.C. MPs who were elected as a result of round two of Trudeaumania must be concerned about whether they can hold their seats. History is a guide for them.

In 1968, when Justin’s father Pierre brought the Liberals the majority government they had been trying to achieve for five years, the party won 16 seats in B.C. In 1972, they won four. Canada-wide, the party lost 46 seats and barely held onto power. They won two more seats than the Progressive Conservatives, and were propped up by the NDP for almost two years.

In 2015, the Liberals boosted their seat total to a new record in B.C. They won 17 seats. Since then, they have had a number of challenges. The approval of the Kinder Morgan pipeline has been deeply unpopular in many parts of B.C.

The move to more heavily tax small businesses, and the labelling of many business people as “tax cheats,” has caused Surrey MPs’ office phones to ring off the hook. Whether changes announced Monday on this topic will mollify remains to be seen.

Perhaps the most damaging thing for Surrey Liberal MPs has been the election of Jagmeet Singh to the leadership of the NDP. Singh is a proud Sikh. In Surrey, many Sikhs were drawn to the Liberals in the last election.

This was particularly noticeable in ridings that had voted NDP in the past. It is a pretty safe observation that many of those who voted Liberal in 2015 will be more inclined to vote for the NDP under the leadership of Singh.

A good test of how much things have changed will be a byelection in South Surrey-White Rock, where Conservative MP Dianne Watts resigned to seek the BC Liberal leadership. Watts was a popular mayor but didn’t win her federal seat by a huge margin.

If Liberals go back to their usual levels of support in the byelection, the five Liberal MPs from this area may have a tough time in 2019.

Frank Bucholtz writes Fridays for the Now-Leader. Email frank.bucholtz@gmail.com