The day after the 44th federal election was triggered, NDP candidate Avi Lewis gave his first official campaign speech to more than 100 supporters gathered at Davis Bay on the Sunshine Coast.
Lewis, a Halfmoon Bay resident running in the West Vancouver-Sunshine Coast-Sea to Sky Country riding, told Coast Reporter he was “gobsmacked” by the turnout for the Aug. 16 event.
“I think the turnout is a concrete expression of the deep desire for big change in this riding,” he said.
His speech touched on a variety of hot-topic issues, from housing to unmarked graves, the climate, the public health crisis, and toxic drug supply.
“We are living in the middle of overlapping emergencies on every front,” he told the crowd. “And now, Justin Trudeau has called a short, sharp, selfish election.”
“Trudeau wants absolute power, and he sees a short window,” Lewis said in an interview after his speech.
While Lewis said there’s no excuse for an election right now, he said the NDP is not whining about it.
“The election is on and we’re here to fight it. We’re going to turn it into a reckoning,” Lewis said. “[Trudeau] wants to cash in – he’s actually going to face the people and he’s going to find out what they actually think.”
Lewis pointed to the change the NDP has been able to effect during the pandemic while the Liberals had a minority government.
“We doubled the CERB (Canada Emergency Response Benefit), we got the wage subsidy increased from 10 per cent to 75 per cent, and want a lot of other concrete benefits for working families,” he told Coast Reporter. He was critical in his speech of the business executives (namely Air Canada) and billionaires who profited from the pandemic.
When asked about NDP leader Jagmeet Singh’s ask that the mandatory vaccine for federal workers be required before Labour Day, Lewis said, “It just makes sense,” and is part of the NDP’s role in making the Liberals follow through with their promises.
“We know that the pandemic recovery has to be a climate plan, a housing plan, an equality plan, an anti-racism plan,” he said in his rally speech. “It has to be a Green New Deal for all and that's what I’m fighting for in this election.”
Another NDP platform idea Lewis touted was a civilian climate corps to address the unemployment crisis by putting people to work in conservation.
He spoke of his family’s history with the party – namely his grandfather, former federal NDP leader David Lewis.
During the campaign, Lewis said he’ll be working to reinvigorate the NDP’s base and reach beyond it to other constituents.
“We have 35 days to change everything,” he said to cheers from the crowd.
Prime Minister Justin Trudeau asked Gov. Gen. Mary Simon to dissolve Parliament on Sunday, Aug. 15, triggering a 36-day campaignperiod. The election will be held on Sept. 20.
In the West Vancouver-Sunshine Coast-Sea to Sky Country riding, candidates have already been named for five parties: current Liberal MP Patrick Weiler, former Conservative MP John Weston, Lewis for the NDP, Mike Simpson for the Green Party, and Doug Bebb for the People’s Party of Canada.
The federal election comes less than two years since the 2019 vote on Oct. 21. Then, there were 64,980 valid votes cast in the West Vancouver-Sunshine Coast-Sea to Sky Country riding: the Liberals’ Weiler won the election with 22,673 votes or 34.9 per cent of the vote. Conservative candidate Gabrielle Loren was second with 17,359 votes or 26.7 per cent. Green Dana Taylor came in third with 14,579 votes, approximately 22.4 per cent. Judith Wilson of the NDP took home 9,027 votes at 13.9 per cent. Bebb, who is running again this year, came in fifth place with 1,010 ballots or 1.6 per cent. Gordon Jeffrey of the Rhinoceros Party had 173, and Independent Terry Grimwood had 159 votes.
When Parliament dissolved over the weekend, the Liberals had 155 seats, followed by 119 seats for the Conservatives. The Bloc Quebecois held 32 seats, while the NDP had 24 and the Greens had two. There were five independents, and there was one vacancy.