Peter Julian loves his job. But the incumbent Member of Parliament for Burnaby-New Westminster can’t help but wish Canada wasn’t so dang big. Twenty hours a week in airplanes and airports flying between Ottawa and New Westminster is the one part of the job he’d change.
“I don’t live in Ottawa. I live here. I wish the country was a little smaller,” Peter confided when he joined Will and I for a glass of beer at Drink a few days ago for a pre-election chat.
Will and I don’t always vote for the NDP, but this election there was no question who we would support. Peter’s an able representative for New Westminster and has a reputation as one of the hardest-working MPs in Ottawa.
On the other side of the electoral boundary, our friend and fellow editorial board member Jen Arbo, who usually votes Green, is also voting Orange this election (she explains why Fin Donnelly wins her vote on her personal blog, the Arbolog).
Given the recent shenanigans in Ottawa, I was disappointed to see The Globe & Mail, the Vancouver Sun and The Province newspapers all endorse Steven Harper’s Conservatives. In New Westminster, the Tenth to the Fraser editorial board endorses the NDP.
And we are by no means alone. This once ho-hum election has taken a surprising turn towards the end, with pollsters across the country reporting an NDP surge that has caught everyone, including the NDP, by surprise. On Monday when the polls close, we could see another Harper minority, but it’s also possible it could be a Harper majority (thanks to vote-splitting on the progressive side) or even an NDP-led coalition government.
The Georgia Straight has also endorsed Peter Julian and Fin Donnelly in New Westminster. Here’s their rationale:
This is a no-brainer. He’s a very capable politician with a firm grasp on complicated issues, including health care and international trade. Julian is also bilingual, which raises the possibility of him becoming a future leader of the party should Layton decide at some point to step down.
First elected in 2004, he wins with larger pluralities in each successive election. This time should be no different. If the NDP pulls off the upset of the century and wins the most seats, Julian will go straight into cabinet.
The former Coquitlam councillor won a stunning landslide in a 2009 by-election by appealing to traditional New Democrats in New Westminster as well as the sizeable number of environmentally minded voters in the Tri-Cities. As the NDP fisheries critic, he has been a relentless opponent of open-net fish farms. He also introduced a private member’s bill to ban oil supertankers off the north coast.
For many years, Donnelly has maintained strong ties with B.C.’s aboriginal community. He helped win trust by swimming the length of the Fraser River twice to raise awareness about the importance of protecting fish habitat.
For his part, Peter Julian thinks that voters, particularly young voters, have had enough of negative campaigning and Steven Harper’s legendary message control. According to Peter, the NDP in New Westminster are seeing unusually high numbers of volunteers in their 20s and 30s getting involved in the campaign. In addition, the advance poll turnout is much higher than in previous years, which may indicate a trend towards higher voter turnout overall.
“There is something phenomenally profound about what has happened over the last few weeks across the country. We’re getting reports that people are saying that people are stepping up to vote for an NDP government, and they like Jack, they like that the campaign is positive and that it is substantive issues we are talking about,” Peter said. “I think there’s a pretty profound transformation happening now as we speak.”
At the same time, polls can be misleading and can lead people to change their vote based on what other people are doing, rather than vote for the candidate they most support. Renee Stephen tweeted that it would be more useful for Elections Canada to ban polls instead of election-day tweets revealing early results. I asked Peter about this too.
“My father’s written a book on this, on polls. I think polls have their place but I think it bothers me to the extent the the mainstream media covers polls instead of the real issues,” Peter told me. “We get a lot of information on polls but we don’t get a lot of information on homelessness and poverty and record levels of student debt. These are the kind of issues that actually have a profound impact on people’s lives.
“The polls are a superficial and cheap way of saying you’re covering politics without really covering the impacts of what politics does.
In Peter’s view, the government’s role is to create a level playing field for all citizens, particularly caring for the weakest among us.
“You must put the resources to the essentials and take care of them first. Over the last 15 years there’s been a noticeable decline in our quality of life and standard of living because our priorities aren’t right.
“We’ve seen a diminishing of the government and at the same time we’ve seen a number of our resources allocated to what I would call pet projects like corporate tax cuts, expensive fighter jets and the G20 summit. ”
The Liberals and the Conservatives typically try to frame the discussion as a two-way race with them as the parties most likely to win. As I mentioned in the beginning, the NDP’s showing more support in the polls currently than the Liberals, but even if they weren’t, a vote for a third party shouldn’t be assumed to be a wasted vote.
Having an NDP MP hasn’t penalized New West in terms of federal funding dollars (we received federal dollars to help build the new youth centre and the riverfront Pier Park, to name two examples), nor has it prevented Peter Julian from passing new legislation. Private Member’s Bills introduced by Peter include tougher drunk driving laws that would lower the blood alcohol limit required to establish impaired driving and eliminating the toxic substances (PBDEs) found in fire retardants, a Bill that is strongly endorsed by firefighters and supported by more than 130 Canadian municipalities including the City of Burnaby and the City of New Westminster.
And so, regardless of how this election turns out: Conservative majority or minority, Liberal or NDP-led coalition, or even a Green Party sweep, Will and I are endorsing Peter Julian as our New Westminster representative, and we agree with Jen’s endorsement of Fin Donnelly in New Westminster-Coquitlam.
Peter has a track record of tirelessly working for New Westminster and continues to bring an optimism and energy to his work in Ottawa that we admire and respect. He’s a damn good MP and we are lucky to have him. He easily outshines the other candidates in his riding.
In New West-Coquitlam, Conservative Diana Dilworth is a respectable candidate. She’s a smart woman and has a lot to offer public life. But although she believes she can work for change from within the Conservative party if elected, we respectfully disagree. The Conservatives under Steven Harper are so tightly controlled that we believe it is unlikely that Diana would be able to advance the causes she believes in.
Like Jen, we believe that Fin Donnelly has shown himself to be a solid advocate for environmental and community issues. We’d like to see him have more time in Ottawa to show us what he can do.
All that said, while we wanted to share who we were voting for and why, we’d like to hear your opinion. Whether you agree or disagree with our choice of Peter Julian and Fin Donnelly for New Westminster, please share your election picks in the comments. And no matter who you vote for, you’re welcome to join us in watching the election results roll in at the Vote Party, May 2 from 5:30pm onward at the Heritage Grill. Hope to see you there!