It’s been a heated federal election campaign on the national level but the gloves, for the most part, have stayed on in Delta.
This year’s race has seven candidates vying for the seat held by Liberal Carla Qualtrough, a key member of Justin Trudeau’s cabinet who beat Conservative incumbent Kerry-Lynne Findlay by a wide margin in 2015.
The Liberal incumbent this time around faces six challengers: Conservative Tanya Corbet, New Democrat Randy Anderson-Fennell, Green candidate Craig DeCraene, the People’s Party of Canada’s Angelina Ireland as well as independents Amarit Bains and Tony Bennett.
The campaign really kicked off more than a year ago when Trudeau paid a visit to an East Delta farm to announce Qualtrough would once again run in Delta, while slamming the Conservatives in front of a large, enthusiastic audience, many jostling to get a selfie with the Liberal leader.
It wasn’t until this spring that the Conservatives announced Corbet, a member of the Tsawwassen First Nation, had been acclaimed as their candidate. Ireland had applied for the Conservative nomination but left in frustration to join the new People’s Party led by ex-Conservative Maxime Bernier.
Seeing it as a battleground riding, Conservative Leader Andrew Scheer paid a visit to Tsawwassen Springs this summer to show his support for Corbet while talking about his vision for the country. Last week he returned, announcing details of his platform at Centennial Beach with Corbet and other B.C. Conservative candidates behind him.
He also took the opportunity to slam Trudeau as he has done repeatedly throughout the campaign.
“Four years ago, Justin Trudeau came to office on a promise of sunny ways and positive politics. He spoke of his hopeful vision of the future, but it didn’t take long for his professed optimism to give way to outright cynicism and his commitment to unity to dissolve into divisiveness,” Scheer said during his speech on the beach in Boundary Bay.
In response, Qualtrough countered, “I would be embarrassed if the leader of my party came into my community and announced $53 billion of cuts to the infrastructure and services that Canadians rely on. It puts into question everything the local Conservative candidate has promised, including federal funds for the (George) Massey Tunnel replacement project."
Trudeau made a campaign stop last month in North Delta to talk about his climate action platform, which includes incentives for homeowners to retrofit their homes. He also touched on funding for a George Massey Tunnel replacement.
“We made the decision in 2015 that the federal government needed to be a partner investing in priorities for communities right across the country,” said Trudeau. “We also made a determination that Ottawa wasn’t the best positioned to determine what exactly the communities’ needs were. We have been there with billions of dollars on the table to work in partnership with provinces and municipalities on their priorities… We will respect the province and the municipalities in their decisions, but the money is there.”
Qualtrough, who’s been publicly endorsed by former Delta South MLA Vicki Huntington, has also been vocal about the need to replace the tunnel, saying it’s time the provincial government made up its mind on a crossing option.
The tunnel was also a big campaign issue for the Conservatives with Scheer promising to make it an infrastructure priority, and Corbet promising a summit of stakeholders within her first 100 days in office.
“The traffic bottleneck on Highway 99 is a daily frustration for commuters in our community and impedes one of the most significant trade corridors in Western Canada,” Corbet said.
“Despite the hard fought efforts of mayors, councillors, MLAs and chiefs, there remains no cohesive plan to replace the George Massey Tunnel. The Trudeau Liberals have done nothing to merge these efforts or provide leadership to address the traffic conditions.”
While Trudeau was busy campaigning in Ontario last week, his wife, Sophie Grégoire Trudeau, paid a visit to Ladner Village to speak to a couple dozen volunteers at Qualtrough’s 48th Avenue campaign office before visiting with merchants in the village.
The visit came a day after Qualtrough released her local platform, which includes promises to work closely with the city’s mayor to increase affordable housing, to protect and restore the Fraser River estuary, combat criminal activity at the port and upcoming casino, and increase access to family doctors.
The 2015 election saw the electoral map reconfigured to combine North Delta and South Delta into a single riding, which had one of the highest voter turnouts in the country.
Qualtrough became the first Liberal in decades to represent South Delta, which had been a Conservative stronghold.
The election takes place Oct. 21.