PRIME MINISTER Justin Trudeau is coming to Kamloops Jan. 9 for a fundraiser.
At $300/ticket, it might seem a bit steep for a riding where the Liberal candidate came third in the last federal election. But I’m betting that there will be a strong turnout. Kamloops loves a fundraiser, and the headliner is sure to deliver.
But why Kamloops? We’re not a stronghold for federal Liberals by any stretch. The last time a Liberal was elected in Kamloops was in 1974, when Len Marchand took the seat. From then until now, either NDP or Conservative MPs (and one term of Alliance) have held the riding. The last time a federal Liberal even took second place in the riding was in 2004, when John O’Fee took second place to Conservative Betty Hinton.
Being an election year, it can mean only one thing. Trudeau needs a place “off Broadway” to practice his shtick.
I’m speaking from experience. When I ran for the BC NDP a few years back, leader John Horgan came to Kamloops before the provincial election. Kamloops North was a possible riding to win, but Kamloops South was a long shot. In either case, there were other ridings with higher odds.
But Horgan came to Kamloops and he delivered a barnburner speech to a packed house of supporters.
What was most interesting to me was that it was the same speech he delivered when he launched the province wide campaign a few days later down in the Lower Mainland.
What I thought then, and I think now, is that Horgan came to Kamloops to practise for the main event, which was the campaign in the Lower Mainland of B.C. The seats that carried the BC NDP to power were in the Lower Mainland. Horgan needed a place to practise, so Kamloops was chosen.
And I think Trudeau is coming to Kamloops for the same reason. If Trudeau inspires Kamloops to get behind the Liberals, and they take Kamloops that would be a bonus for Trudeau. But I think his true motive is to practise his B.C. campaign speech before he goes where he needs to win, which just like John Horgan, is in the B.C. Lower Mainland. That’s where the core of his support is in B.C. That’s the support he needs to keep to get elected again this time around.
And he picked the Kamloops riding held by the Conservatives to make his speech because that’s who he needs to beat.
In the last election, of the 184 seats Liberals won, the Conservatives came second in 111 of these seats, while the NDP came second in 64 seats, and the Bloc Québécois came second in eight. Meanwhile, the Liberals came second in 81 of the 99 seats the Conservatives won. Only 18 of the 99 Conservative wins had NDP candidates in second place.
For Liberal held seats, the biggest threat is Conservatives. At the same time, the biggest opportunities to gain seats for the Liberals is to target Conservative held seats where they came second.
Going into the 2019 federal election, Justin Trudeau and his Liberal candidates have to be able to deliver a message that resonates with soft Conservatives. That’s why he’s coming to Kamloops.
There would be no point in Trudeau going to somewhere like Chilliwack, which has never elected a Liberal candidate since 1949 (or an NDP candidate either for that matter).
Voters in Kamloops have voted in every main party, but very rarely with a majority. Conservative Cathy McLeod, the current MP, has only won one of her three elections with a majority of votes. Coming to Kamloops, with its eclectic politics, will let Trudeau practise his campaign pitch to B.C. voters before going on to the main event in the B.C. Lower Mainland. It should be quite a warmup.
Nancy Bepple is a former city councillor of Kamloops with a strong interest in community building projects.