The incumbents in two diverse ridings face tough battles
Running Hard to Stand Fast
The incumbents in two diverse ridings face tough battles
Throughout the election campaign, Maclean’s is sampling voter opinion in five high-stakes ridings across Canada—Vancouver Centre, Calgary Centre, Markham in Ontario, Laval East in Quebec and Halifax (page 30). Maclean’s correspondents are also profiling each of the five ridings, including two this week. First, Vancouver Bureau Chief Ken MacQueen takes a look at Vancouver Centre, currently held by Liberal cabinet minister Hedy Fry. Next, Associate Editor Susan McClelland visits Markham, where the Canadian Alliance gained an Ontario toehold with the Sept. 7 defection of Tory MP Jim Jones:
They were, if not the youngest voters in the room, certainly the youngest dot-com millionaires in attendance. As Vancouver Centre MP Hedy Fry worked the crowd at a campaign party, Rahim Fazal, 18, and his friend and business partner, Husein Kaba, 19, watched the politicking with bemused detachment. They were invited, they knew, to have their wallets picked, and to illustrate a point: Liberals are hip to the future. In June, the teens sold their Web site, MailBC.com, for $2.4 million— not bad for an enterprise squeezed between high-school classes. Fry, running hard for a third term in a notoriously fickle riding, cited them as the kind of “silicon alley” success that happens in a Liberal Canada. The young men smiled and returned to quietly discussing their latest project: a move to the United States.
Fry, a doctor and past-president of the B.C. Medical Association, has made the defence of accessible health care a
centrepiece of her campaign, but it is a calculated risk. In Vancouver Centre, as elsewhere, medicare is showing its age. When Canadian Alliance candidate John Mortimer doorknocks for votes in the forest of highrises, or trolls the coffee shops, gay bars and seniors’ homes near the fringes of Stanley Park and the shore of English Bay, health care is indeed top of mind. People are appalled by the recent case of 47-year-old Sharon Singh, who could have had a life-saving liver transplant—except she was sent back home to Sooke, B.C., because there were no intensive-care beds available in Vancouver Hospital. (The liver was shipped to Alberta; Singh is still waiting.) Many are quick to add their own health-care horror stories, says Mortimer, co-founder of an Internet company offering advice on union drives and decertifications.
Conservative candidate Lee Johnson, a 27-year-old hightech entrepreneur and former commercial pilot, attacks Fry’s record at the riding level. He calls her “absent, ineffective and lazy.” In the flamboyant fashion that typifies the riding, Green party candidate Jamie Lee Hamilton, who once worked Vancouver streets as a transgendered prostitute, likens her race against Fry as “the battle of the two divas.” In all, 10 candidates are chasing a riding that for decades has seesawed between Liberal and Conservative and flirted with the NDP.
Fazal won’t say whom he will support on Nov. 27, in his first, and perhaps last, vote in a Canadian election. In midDecember, he and Kaba fly to San Diego to find a home for their new venture, an “interactive e-commerce community.”
POPULATION 116,080 CANADIAN CITIZENSHIP 86.2% AVERAGE HOUSEHOLD INCOME $44,786 MOTHER TONGUE English 73% Other 24.1% French 2.9% RELIGION No affiliation 36.3% Protestant 35% Catholic 20.1% Other 8.6% 1997 ELECTION RESULTS Hedy Fry (Lib.) 40.8% Richard Farbridge (Ref.) 22.6% Bill Siksay (NDP) 20.9% Victoria Minnes (PC) 9.3% Paul Alexander (Green) 3% Joseph Roberts (Ind.) 1.4% Connie Fogal (Cdn. Action) 1% John Cowhig (Nat. Law) 0.4% John Clarke (no affiliation) 0.2% Joseph Theriault (Marx.-Len.) 0.2% Elvis Flostrand (no affiliation) 0.2% VOTER TURNOUT 64.7%
POPULATION 119,460 CANADIAN CITIZENSHIP 95.1% AVERAGE HOUSEHOLD INCOME $75,770 MOTHER TONGUE English 53.8% Other 45.4% French 0.8% RELIGION Protestant 34.6% Catholic 30.7% Other 18% No affiliation 16.6% 1997 ELECTION RESULTS Jim Jones (PC) 44.7% Gobinder Randhawa (Lib.) 36.7% John Paloc (Ref.) 10.8% Jag Bhaduria (Ind.) 3.5% Bhanu Gaunt (NDP) 3.2% Stephen Porter (Nat. Law) 0.6% Jeff Baulch (Cdn. Action) 0.5% VOTER TURNOUT 67.5%
He cites the reasons for leaving: high taxes, red tape, a lagging commitment to high tech. Liberal tax cuts are too little, too late. “In this industry, there’s not time to sit and wait,” says Fazal, who is voting with his feet.
It is 8 a.m. and Canadian Alliance candidate Jim Jones takes a break from canvassing outdoors to warm up inside the Unionville GO Transit station. Jones has been at the location in the heart of the Markham, Ont., riding since 6 a.m. But what started off as an unusually mild November morning has turned rainy and cold. Jones won’t call it quits, though. In a three-hour time span, about 600 Markham residents pass through the station on their 30-km commute south to jobs in downtown Toronto. Liberal candidate John McCallum has already been at the station once and plans on coming back. And Conservative hopeful David Scrymgeour is on the train platform chatting amiably with voters.
Jones wants to be highly visible, since this is an Ontario riding the Alliance has a chance of winning. After all, Jones is the incumbent. But in 1997, he won as a Tory, giving the Conservatives their only Ontario seat. When the 57-year-old announced in July he wanted to run for both the Alliance and PC parties, Joe Clark turfed him from the Conservative caucus; Stockwell Day then welcomed him into the Alliance fold. Jones said his goal was to end the vote splitting between the two parties. Some voters, however, like 49-year-old small-business owner Keith Thirgood, feel Jones owes more of an explanation. “It seems he’s an opportunist,” says Thirgood. “He goes to whatever party he thinks he can win with.” The Alliance has gained support in Markham. But whether this has to do with Jones or the makeup of the riding itself is debatable. Markham has a large number of wealthy families willing to support parties that espouse traditional values and promise lower taxes. The riding is in the 905 area-code district that helped return Ontario Premier Mike Harris to power in 1999. And it is home to the headquarters of several Fortune 500 companies, including IBM Canada and Apple Canada. Markham’s electoral history, however,
is littered with Liberal victories. The riding has a growing multicultural community, which traditionally supports the Liberals. Not surprisingly, McCallum’s campaign has focused on the multiracial vote. But he faces other obstacles. Prime Minister Jean Chrétien handpicked the political neophyte even though the Liberal candidate in 1997, bus driver Gobinder Randhawa, wanted to run again. McCallum, 50, who took a leave from his position as chief economist for the Royal Bank of Canada, says he got involved because of flaws in the Alliance tax plan. But
as many have pointed out, he lives 50 km away in Oakville, not Markham. “He has no history of the area and so he wouldn’t be able to serve the man on the street,” says 59-year-old management consultant George Edwards.
As for Scrymgeour, an energetic 43-yearold owner of companies specializing in start-ups and acquisitions, a key battle is keeping the estimated 20,000 Conservative voters in the riding from switching to the Alliance. That may be easier said than done. “Joe Clark is weak and not wellliked,” says Susan Chevalier, 49, a smallbusiness owner, who describes herself as a “big-C Conservative.” So how will she vote? At the start of the campaign, she described Day as “an unknown.” Since then, however, he has impressed her enough that Chevalier now says she will vote for Jones.
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