Home Election Tracker By-Elections Down to the wire in Langford-Juan de Fuca by-election

Down to the wire in Langford-Juan de Fuca by-election

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The by-election ballot in Langford-Juan de Fuca has five candidate names. [June 2023]

Friday June 23, 2023 | LANGFORD, BC [Updated 9:15 pm]

POLITICAL ANALYSIS by Mary P Brooke | Island Social Trends


Langford-Juan de Fuca had the same MLA for a long time. Now that residents of Langford, Highlands, Sooke and Juan de Fuca are choosing a new representative as their MLA in the BC Legislative Assembly, the choices of voters in tomorrow’s by-election will manifest additional significance.

This editorial analysis is our traditional pre-election-day offering to Island Social Trends readers with a deeper look at broader political trends. That’s for folks who haven’t yet voted (advance voting ran June 16 to 21) or who’ve been neck-deep in particular campaigns and would like to pull back and see the broader picture.

After all the door-knocking, all candidates meetings (in person, on Zoom, and on TV), rallies and sign-waving events, the candidates are today on their last day of campaigning.

Election Day is Saturday June 24, from 8 am to 8 pm, at several locations around Langford-Juan de Fuca. By-elections are a way that serves the continuation of democracy. | WHERE and WHEN TO VOTE

Who is on the ballot:

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The by-election ballot in Langford-Juan de Fuca has five candidate names. [June 2023]

For this article we offered an interview opportunity to the candidates of BC NDP, BC Green, BC United and BC Conservatives. We had the pleasure of chatting with Ravi Parmar (BC NDP), Camille Currie (BC Green), and Elena Lawson (BC United).

Mike Harris (BC Conservative) did not respond for an interview.

Communist Party of BC candidate Tyson Strandlund is also on the ballot; after being a candidate in many provincial and federal races over the years here on Vancouver Island he is a polished speaker in the realm of his political viewpoint, but he is not really in the running for a win.

Message to the legislature:

Not only are the candidates vying for a seat to represent this riding on the west shore of south Vancouver Island, whoever wins will be taking a message with them to the legislature in the fall about the direction of the current government (perhaps a reflection on the work of the NDP as government over the last six years). But also — if not more so — the election results in Langford-Juan de Fuca could provide a glimpse as to what type of representative is sought in modern politics, at least on Vancouver Island if not in BC overall.

In many circles the Langford-Juan de Fuca race is considered a two-way affair, with the NDP and Greens reportedly neck-in-neck among many observers of all-things political. But due to ample signage around the community, there could be interest in candidates for all four frontline parties.

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Candidates in the Langford-Juan de Fuca by-election (June 2023), from left: Ravi Parmar (BC NDP), Camille Currie (BC Green), Elena Lawson (BC United), and Mike Harris (BC Conservative). [Island Social Trends composite]

Gender profile:

Drilling down further… does gender matter? This election offers two men and two women as candidates in the top slots:

  • Camille Currie – BC Green
  • Mike Harris – BC Conservative
  • Elena Lawson – BC United
  • Ravi Parmar – BC NDP

Gender should not matter one bit when it comes to competency, intelligence and commitment.

But in some ways it does matter as to lived-experience with regard to how gender-impacts have shaped these people. For example, men still have more doors opened to them in the mainstream corporate and governance system than women do, and women are often subjected to microaggressions in a range of misogynistic flavours throughout their lives.

When a woman is also a mother and parent this produces a whole new overlay of insight and experience in a candidate.

Two sides of the riding:

The Langford-Juan de Fuca provincial riding includes Langford, Highlands, Sooke and the Juan de Fuca electoral area.

While the urban metropolis of Langford has probably received the most attention, voters in Sooke could make a big difference in the Langford-Juan de Fuca by-election results tomorrow night. Many folks in Sooke have been followers and supporters of John Horgan over the years (MLA there 2005 to 2023); the BC NDP team has hoped to transmute the force of that into votes for candidate Parmar.

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Proposed new electoral boundaries would create a large rural riding (Juan de Fuca-Malahat) and condense the Langford vote into the urban area (Langford-Highlands). | BC Boundaries Commission map – 2022

It should be noted, however, that voters who are aware of the upcoming provincial riding boundary change in 2024 might be casting their vote with a one-year-forward lens. The boundary changes will produce Langford-Highlands (without Sooke), while the new Juan de Fuca-Malahat will include Sooke and Metchosin.

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Candidates during the campaign:

Now let’s go deeper. There is a range of experience, education and work-life profiles among the four top contenders.

Ravi Parmar (BC NDP) as the frontrunner — given that he’s aiming to ‘fill (former premier) John Horgan’s shoes’ — brings oodles of experience in the realm of government machinery. Since barely out of high school he’s been a school board trustee in this region (serving most of the last 10 years as chair of the Sooke School District 62 board of education). His degree from the University of Victoria is in public administration.

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Langford-Juan de Fuca candidate Ravi Parmar and former MLA for the riding, John Horgan, May 13, 2023 at NDP event. [Mary P Brooke / Island Social Trends]

Parmar has worked as a BC government employee in recent years, currently as a senior staffer within the Ministry of Jobs, Economic Development and Innovation. He knows the ropes and the players and they all know him. An instant fit for an NDP MLA, if he wins.

Parmar’s campaign team and door-knocking entourage is peppered with high-profile names and faces — many of them NDP MLAs (including Vancouver-Island-strong Ministers like Rob Fleming, Grace Lore and Mitzi Dean). And twice Parmar has had Premier David Eby in the riding for mainstreeting — once in Langford at the start of the campaign and mid-campaign in Sooke. Parmar is almost always seen in a suit or windbreaker jacket — offering the corporate look and also the made-famous casual local-in-the-riding John Horgan look.

For those with the long-view telescope, Parmar’s stated desire to follow in the footsteps of former local NDP MLAs John Horgan, Moe Sihota and Rick Kasper provides an indication of Parmar’s long-term commitment to the political sphere; for Parmar it’s a life-trajectory… often reminding voters that he first met Horgan when Parmar was an elementary school student in Langford.

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Premier David Eby went mainstreeting in Sooke with BC NDP Langford-Juan de Fuca by-election candidate Ravi Parmar, mid-June 2023. [Twitter]

The long-term strategist that Horgan is, it was not lost on him as to the immigrant force that South Asian families would become in BC in the years head, but also hearing about Parmar’s parents losing their health-care jobs with the former BC government, and then watching Parmar’s high school activism around recycling disposal in schools and the west shore needing a new school that wasn’t falling apart at the seams.

Perhaps the only flaw in that strategy is believing that moving up through the BC civil service and NDP ranks would be solid preparation for representing a full community. That might have worked for Horgan, but arguably he comes from a unique intellectual and spiritual cloth that has made him a stand-out contributor to BC’s provincial story.

Parmar himself has mentioned his desire for ‘diversity’, expressing being pleased at bringing a diverse set of trustees to the board after the October 2022 election in Sooke School District 62, calling it “the best board in BC”.

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Premier David Eby at the Goudy Branch of the Greater Victoria Public Library in central Langford on May 25, 2023 along with Langford-Juan de Fuca BC NDP candidate Ravi Parmar. [Mary P Brooke / Island Social Trends]

To his credit, during his interview with Island Social Trends this week, Parmar gave an articulate summary of the damages caused by the previous (BC Liberal) government, spurring on his resolve to continue changing things for the better within the BC NDP, within the context of “what they (the BC Liberals) did to our province”. It should be noted that the BC Liberals changed their party name recently, to now BC United. Some voters are confused and think it’s a new party… so part of the fresh coat of paint for the party seems to have worked. But those who are long-acquainted with BC politics will not and do not forget.

During the campaign Parmar has covered Sooke and Langford on the campaign trail, as well as Highlands and far-points within Juan de Fuca (in East Sooke and out as far as Port Renfrew).

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Camille Currie (BC Green) as the purported also-could-win candidate, stands first on her popularity as an established advocate for improvements in health-care — or as she prefers to put it, for well-being (which is probably more applicable to most voters). In terms of her personal qualifications she carries some strong weight from the education side, including a degree in political science.

Currie can also stand on the fact that the Greens came in second last time in Langford-Juan de Fuca (that was in 2020 in the snap election that Horgan called during the pandemic). In this campaign, Currie has had active on-the-ground support from BC Green Leader Sonia Furstenau and Adam Olsen (North Saanich and the Islands).

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Camille Currie — BC Green candidate for Langford-Juan de Fuca, was supported at her office opening by party leader Sonia Furstenau and MLA Adam Olsen, May 15, 2023 in Langford. [Mary P Brooke / Island Social Trends]

A win for Currie would increase the Green representation in the legislative assembly by 50 percent (if the Green candidate in the concurrent Vancouver-Mount Pleasant riding also wins, the Green footprint would literally double).

Currie connects easily and intently with voters; she is insightful and picks up nuances. She makes a stable but energetic impression.

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Thumbs up by BC Green Langford-Juan de Fuca candidate Camille Currie after voting on the first day of advance voting, June 16, 2023, in Langford. [Mary P Brooke / Island Social Trends]

She brings a fresh energy to the race. Currie reminds folks about her experience as a small business owner, and as a parent; and it’s no small feat that she’s been able to include her family in the life of a campaigner.

This week Currie told Island Social Trends that she can acquire legislative experience but what she brings to the table is lived experience.

Yes it’s a political strategy to veer from being seen as a single-issue candidate, but Currie’s articulation of expanding health-care to a broader understanding of well-being is possibly one of her most significant contributions to public discourse during this campaign.

Elena Lawson (BC United) is riding hard on being seen and supported by BC United (BCU) Leader Kevin Falcon, pitching hard with the current BCU push for banning possession of small amounts of illicit drugs in parks, playgrounds and beaches and overall the level of crime in communities. These policy picks play on the fear-factor, although both issues legitimately concern most people.

elena lawson, bc united, langford-juan de fuca
BC United Langford-Juan de Fuca candidate Elena Lawson during all candidates meeting on CHEK-TV, June 15, 2023.

Lawson admits that what she lacks in political experience she makes up for in lived experience, both as a parent and as an advocate for restoring direct-funding to parents who have autistic children who require government-funded supports.

The mother of two young boys makes a highly personable instant connection with people which would serve the BCU well among their often business-first and boardroom-style ranks.

Mike Harris (BC Conservative) seems to have stuck to the road he knows… business, real estate, family and traditional values. He did make a stand-out statement in one of the televised all candidates debates, saying that people in BC (the ones he’s talking to) don’t feel heard.

mike harris, conservative, langford-juan de fuca
BC Conservative candidate Mike Harris, in the Langford-Juan de Fuca by-election.

Harris seems to have used this campaign to get the word out about the small-but-possibly-growing BC Conservative Party and to do his part to speak for people who haven’t found a place in the current political mainstream.

The recently new leader of the BC Conservatives is John Rustad, who was asked to leave the former BC Liberals over his denial position on climate change. The party has also maintained a public discourse about gender ideology in schools.

All campaigns – top issues:

While everyone is now acutely aware of the impact of changes in weather and climate in recent years in BC, environment and emergency preparedness has not really risen to the top of political debate in the Langford-Juan de Fuca by-election this month.

There’s also not been much mention of transportation or commuter gridlock (Hwy 1 and Hwy 14 road and commuter issues have been largely resolved in the past six years under work done by the Horgan government).

wet roads, construction zone, hwy 14
Highway 14 construction zone on a wet day in December 2022. [Island Social Trends]

Top issues have included which party will make the best impact in provincial legislation, with messaging around health-care, the housing crisis, and to some extent also education. These are big issues that one MLA cannot influence all that much. In that regard, it’s important to recognize which party can do the most in health-care, housing and education.

Challenges for jobs and employment have not been articulated too much, though the buzzwords of affordability and cost-of-living are frequently tossed about. Affordability means something different to each individual, family and business depending on how they’ve been impacted by the extreme pressure of interest rate increases over the past 14 months or so.

Food security has not surfaced much if at all in the Langford-Juan de Fuca by-election campaigns. Except perhaps more broadly in terms of affordability and the impacts of inflation. Food security is widely impacted by provincial agriculture ministry policies and initiatives, but this point was not articulated by any of the candidates.

The cost of running a small business has not really been addressed by any of the candidates in much detail. Small businesses are important economic entities within communities, notably within the west shore region.

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In their own words:

Here are the interviews done by Island Social Trends Editor Mary P Brooke with Parmar, Currie and Lawson in the past two days:

Ravi Parmar, BC NDP candidate (June 21, 2023):

Island Social Trends (IST): “How has the campaign been going and what will you be doing in the last few days of the campaign?”

PARMAR: “Things are going very well. I’m feeling quite positive, but of course not taking anything for granted. I hear from a lot of people that they like the work that Premier Eby and my predecessor John Horgan were doing on health-care and education in the community. [Editor’s note: Parmar is not exactly a predecessor of Horgan, as Parmar is not elected to office.]

“But they want to see more and that’s exactly what I plan on doing. And certainly sharing with them my perspectives and what I would do to deliver for the people of Langford-Juan de Fuca as MLA any time i’m not on my phone I’m out on the doorstep.”

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Campaign photo of Ravi Parmar meeting one of his youngest constituents! [BC NDP]

IST: “What are you hearing on the doorstep that is surprising you?”

PARMAR: “I would say there’s anything I’m hearing that is surprising. I’m hearing common things that many would expect and that many are having in their own conversations… about finding relief on the cost of living issues, and increases caused by global inflation. But also talking about the need to make more investments in the services we can count on like health-care and education, and making sure we can create good sustaining family-supporting jobs all across the riding.”

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MLA Grace Lore (Victoria-Beacon Hill) and family out helping Langford-Juan de Fuca BC NDP candidate Ravi Parmar on the campaign trail, June 9, 2023. [BC NDP]

IST: “I’m sure you’re hearing about the health-care aspect, for a number of reasons. If you were an MLA in the fall, how would your being there impact anything differently?”

canada day, langford

PARMAR: “I think I would be a strong voice in the BC Legislature, working with our (health) Minister Adrian Dix to make sure we’re delivering more health-care resources to people here in Langford-Juan de Fuca. A number one priority for me would be getting the new Sooke community health centre completed, working with the local organization there, the Sooke Community Health Network. But making sure there’s ways to help fill the gap left by Kevin Falcon and the previous government. But also ensuring that the new intiative that has been undertaken — whether it’s the foreign credentials fast-tracking or the new doctors deal that’s benefiting people here in Langford-Juan de Fuca.”

“So there’s a whole host of measures that I would be doing and of course there’s a lot of other indirect things that will help attract more doctors, nurses and first responders to Langford-Juan de Fuca and that’s making sure we’re being more affordable housing as well as addressing more accommodations like child care that impact one’s ability to work.”

IST: “For most people previous government is a long time ago. People who know, know the impact of that government. But how is that resonating in a campaign where you’re mentioning things that happened five, 10, 15 years ago. How are people reacting to that?”

PARMAR: “Well a couple of things… first, is that by-elections are not for everyone, because it tends to be a lot lower voter turnout. That can certainly work in an opposition party’s favour. So the history books have to show that. But what I would say is that there are a lot of people who have been fascinated by the new signs. The new party.”

“But when they see the face of the leadership of the party they’re reminded of disastrous cuts in health-care, a generation of students whose education experience is different than others, and a whole host of other things like the housing crisis. And so they’re reminded of Kevin Falcon and the BC Liberals — now they call themselves BC United — and what they did to our province. They’re reminded that we have worked very hard in the government to fix the wrongs, and also to make sure that we’re doing better than they ever did.”

“And I’ve often talked about my own personal experiences with that government whether it was my parents being health-care workers and their jobs privatized or my experience in school — whether it was as a student or as a school trustee for a short period of the BC Liberal government from 2014 to 2017. I know their record. It know it’s my job and mission to ensure that people of Langford-Juan de Fuca are reminded of the record. But also making sure that we talk about the record of the NDP government under John Horgan and now David Eby, to make sure that people know that they have a clear choice in this by-election.”

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IST: “On housing — rapid development obviously in Langford particularly, also Sooke. How does that possibly keep up with the need?”

PARMAR: “A couple of thgings. One is that there’s obviously a desire to build more affordable housing. For too long we’ve allowed developers and speculators to run the show. But also making sure that government is coming to the table to build more affordable housing. I think it’s fair to say that governments of all political stripes over the last 20 or 30 years — especially the federal government — has not been doing their fair share when it comes to investing in public housing. So I’m proud of the work that David Eby in particular as housing minister and now as Premier has put a focus on that as part of his time as Premier to taking action to build more affordable housing.”

“In Langford-Juan de Fuca alone over the last few years we’ve build or completed nearly 1,000 units of affordable housing — and that’s housing dedicated toward low-income seniors, for those fleeing violence, or Indigenous families. And what I hear is that people are appreciative of that work but there’s a lot more work to do. An expectation that I’ve talked to folks about throughout this constituency — whether in Langford, Sooke, the Highlands, East Sooke, Shirley, all the way out to Port Renfrew and our friends in Jordan River — talking about the fact that we need more investments. So I look forward to working with local leadership, with our Indigenous nations, to make sure the prov is making continued investments in education, in housing, transportation and a whole host of other things across this constituency.”

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Ravi Parmar, BC NDP candidate for Langford-Juan de Fuca with Mitzi Dean, MLA (Esquimalt-Metchosin) at Parmar’s campaign office opening May 28, 2023 in Langford. [supplied]

IST: “On voter turnout… there’s a theory that if more people participate in a by-election that the other parties do better than the candidate of the government party. What are you feeling about voter turnout. Do you think it’s more robust than would normally be expected in a by-election?”

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PARMAR: “When voter turnout is high, everyone wins. And so I’m certainly out there reminding people all across Langford-Juan de Fuca — whether they are supporting me or not, that they get out and make their voice heard. I often chuckle with people, the old saying goes that ‘if you don’t vote you can’t complain’.”

“I certainly come across a lot of people who are very interested in the by-election and others who are taking their time to assess whether they have the time and ability to get out there. I’m encouraging people from every part of this community to take advantage of the last day of advance voting [June 21] and of course on election day on Saturday [June 24].”

Camille Currie, BC Green candidate (June 21, 2023):

Island Social Trends (IST): “What are you doing with the last few days of the campaign?”

CURRIE: “Right now we’re really focussed on making sure that we make as many connections as we can with people, and encourage people to get out an vote, because that’s the key here right now.”

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Camille Currie announced her intention to run as the BC Green candidate in the 2023 Langford-Juan de Fuca by-election, at a launch event April 6, 2023 in Victoria. [Mary P Brooke / Island Social Trends]

IST: “What’s your impression of the voter turnout?”

CURRIE: “For a by-election it’s usually low. But I’m fairly impressed so far with the numbers that have shown up in the first couple of days. But we hope that we can get more out, so we can get a true representation of what the community is actually asking for.”

IST: “What have you been hearing during door-knocking and have you been surprised by anything?”

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CURRIE: “Health-care does tend to be — at least three-quarters of the time — what people bring up as one of their top concerns. The other things are affordability — people are really feeling the pinch these days. It’s a really interesting conversation to have with people because I think it also raises awareness that affordability means a lot of different things to people. Their affordability is being affected by a lot of different things. So it’s a super-complex conversation to have, but a really important one so we know all the different dynamics.”

“And then otherwise I’d say there’s some concerns around education in the west shore. People concerned about overcrowding that’s continuing in some of the schools, also programs that are being cut now. I met a couple of teachers, going door to door, who expressed their concerns about not having seen in the last few budgets any increase to operating expenditures within schools. We see capital assessments occurring but we’re not seeing the same equivalency being given to operating expenditures.”

IST: “I want to drill down on the various levels of affordability. Everybody’s got a different situation. But we hear about people who can’t even pay for groceries because they’ve got to pay the rent, there’s that level of it. And then there’s people who probably have to cut back on the number of trips they take per year. So everybody has a different level. So on affordability, how is it resonating throughout the range of people in the community?”

CURRIE: “People are definitely looking for many different ways and means to address affordability issues in the Langford-Juan de Fuca region. Many are encouraged when I talk about some of our initiatives asking for things like transit to be free for those up to age 18. It seems like a minimal ask, but it’s quite impactful for a lot of big families when I bring that issue up. Child care costs are a huge part of affordability issues right now for people. The other part — which I find very disheartening — is conversations with people where they’re having to make those choices between their well-being and their affordability issue. For some they have to pick and choose what food they purchase this month, or for others to manage their prescriptions or manage their prescriptions doses like half-doses. Just to try to offset some of the costs they face with that. That’s incredibly dreadful, especially when hearing that from patients who have diabetes. That’s a big concern.”

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IST: “In the affordability discussion… have you heard from small businesses and how they’re dealing with the increased cost of credit?”

CURRIE: I’m hearing about mortgage rate increases, and people that have rentals or leases have impact on market rates having gone up. And so whether that affects them directly, or whether it’s affecting them indirectly through their landlord. They’re definitely feeling that pinch on the overhead.”

IST: “If/when you win, how does one more Green make a difference in the legislature?”

CURRIE: “I think, first of all, I’d like to remind people that it’s going to make a difference for this community. That’s really important. It’s going to give this community an opportunity to have a representative that will represent their needs directly versus having to necessarily just agree with what the government puts out. As for the party itself as for being in the legislature, we kind of joke about it but it’s true, it will increase our capacity by 50 percent in the legislature. So being able to bring one more voice to two incredibly strong voices already, being a little party doesn’t mean we don’t have as much power. It means we are very driven to be effective.”

IST: “What has motivated your volunteers?”

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Camille Currie — BC Green candidate for Langford-Juan de Fuca — was out sign waving with BC Green Leader Sonia Furstenau and supporters, on Veterans Memorial Parkway at Goldstream Avenue on May 15, 2023. [Mary P Brooke / Island Social Trends]

CURRIE: “Many have come on because they’ve seen the work I’ve done over the last couple of years. They feel very encouraged by it. They feel encouraged by the way that I’ve been able to bring together community to achieve common goals and to look out for each other as one versus the me-myself-and-I mentality. And the other thing is that we have a great atmosphere! We have a really exciting team. And that always make it very easy to encourage people to come out and want to partake in what we’re doing.”

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IST: “For the voter who’s thinking about still voting, I’d like to know how you respond about someone whose got more government experience, versus someone who’s got organizational experience but you haven’t been in the government. How do you respond to that, to someone who might ask you that at the door?”

CURRIE: “What I say to people, is that what they’re telling me at the door is that they want someone who can understand what they’re going through right now in their community. And that doesn’t necessarily require government experience. That requires lived experience. And that’s what I have plenty of, with being a business owner, a parent, a resident of this community. Government experience is something that I can still acquire, but lived experience is something that I bring to the table.”

IST: “What have you been doing during the campaign to keep up your energy and momentum?”

CURRIE: “It’s really exhausting. But I would pretty much go back to about the volunteers… the energy around this has been so incredibly optimistic and positive, that it definitely continues to drive myself and the volunteers every day. It’s long days. I’m putting in over 12 hours days every days, in all different ways of making contact. But it’s people… the people and the encouragement, emails, text messages and phone calls saying ‘you’re doing amazing, just keep it up’.”

IST: “Around the phenomenon around all candidates meetings… there was an election cycle (in recent years) where there were almost no all candidates meetings. So it seems to have come back, including using Zoom and live TV. What do you feel is the value of that for the viewer or the listener?”

CURRIE: “It’s incredibly valuable. I was excited to see how many have taken place over the last week or week-and-a-half. And the value that I see in it is that there’s a large portion of our population that actually isn’t on even social media. So doing debates like this is an amazing way to be able to give those people an opportunity to hear answers to some of the questions, to interact with us. I’m always big on creating equity everywhere we can. That’s what these debates were able to do, to bring the candidates to an even further reach.”

IST: “Your party has said it’s a two-way race. Though all four major party candidates have at least gotten their signage out there and people know who they are. So from your perspective, what makes it ‘a two-way race’ at this point?”

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CURRIE: “Well, the Greens came in second last time, and based on the feedback we’ve been getting at the doors, the number of times I’ve had people actually people tell me ‘yeah I’m voting Green’, without any hesitation. Or in the last week that they’ve already voted Green. It’s what’s the people in the community are telling me. It’s what people are telling me when they send me these emails and text messages: ‘I voted for you today Camille’. And I don’t even know who they are. So it’s positive feedback from this community that does reaffirm for us that we have a real race going here between us and the NDP.”

IST: “The NDP campaign has depended very much on Horgan’s endorsement of Parmar. It seems like there’s a little bit of disenchantment… this was the premier’s riding, but it seems like the NDP campaign from that perspective might be struggling a bit. Generally, what do you feel might be going on there, because it should be a shoe-in from their point of view.”

CURRIE: “I’ll share with you what I’ve heard from the people, to get the story from them. ‘Yes I knew John personally’ or ‘Yes I voted for John in the past’ but ‘I no longer support the NDP’. And that’s where this really stark difference is occurring. People have John in one view, and the BC NDP on the other side. People are seeing an opportunity to elect someone different because John is no longer there. So, riding on the coattails of John Horgan doesn’t seem to be necessarily playing out the way the NDP may have hoped.”

Elena Lawson, BC United candidate (June 22, 2023):

IST: “I’m doing the interviews at this point to find out how it’s been going and what you’ve been hearing on the door-step, and what you might be doing in the last 24 to 48 hours ahead of Election Day.”

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Elena Lawson by-election brochures being handed out indoors on a rainy day, June 10, 2023. [Twitter]

LAWSON: “Right now I’m in Sooke, just doing some door-knocking. It’s going well. Overall the response has been really good. I feel from what I’m hearing people want change which is nice. When I’ve asked people what their top issues are, they can’t really give me just one. So, health-care has been on the top of the list, of course. As well as crime. A lot of people say they don’t feel comfortable or safe walking in their communities anymore. [Editor’s note: Lawson mentioned about an arrest by West Shore RCMP on June 22 of a man in the downtown Langford area in possession of a lot of drugs.]”

” think the safety issue is big. We’re seeing gang recruitment happening in the schools, where the principals are sending out letters. I’m talking to parents who are frustrated that they can’t go back to work because they can’t find child care (and have concerns about) education. It all ties in to affordability as well. One mom said ‘I can’t go back to work because I can’t find child care and now our income is cut’. So I’m hearing a lot of that from a lot of the young families. There definitely needs to be a lot more done.”

“I like that this election is at the beginning of summer because the House isn’t sitting right now. So if I’m fortunate enough to be elected that gives me the whole summer to really engage with community and talk to them and see what they want me to focus on and I can bring their voice into the BC Legislature in the fall.”

seaparc, demamiel, golf, 2023

IST: “How would the BC United make a difference on any of those topics that you’ve just mentioned. They are the official opposition.”

LAWSON: “Kevin was here (recently) but we were at Westhills Park and discussing how we are really going to push the premier and the government to pass legislation to make it illegal to use drugs in parks, playgrounds and beaches. Summer’s here, kids are out of school next week. So that’s definitely one thing that we’ve been pushing — it needs to be illegal and there need to be consequences for that action. When we speak to child care, I’ve spoken to child care providers (they say) ‘can you please cut the red tape, it’s so hard, and it’s so much work to add more children to spaces’ and things like that. They don’t have time to do it. So I’d really push for that.”

IST: “How can you make a difference for the riding, since you’d be one of many MLAs in a party that’s already had a lot of influence being the official opposition. Why vote for you?”

food security news, ist

LAWSON: “For me it’s about bringing the voice back to the community as I did during the autism advocacy. And I want to make it clear — I speak of autism, but that’s my lived experience. But all children with support-needs need support. And those across the board to child care, schools, housing. It touches all of it. Disabilities don’t go away, it’s a permanent disability. Bringing back to the voice of the parents that have had the door shut on them. When John Horgan was premier and MLA he didn’t listen to them. If you didn’t follow the NDP’s narrative and you weren’t in their echo chamber, they didn’t respond to you, they didn’t care, empahty was not there for them and I want to bring that back.”

IST: “Around the cost of housing — well, the cost of everything — any ideas on the solutions for housing?”

LAWSON: “What does affordability mean to the NDP? I’m pretty sure the definition of affordability is definitely different for the community. So what does our community need? We need more affordable housing built. But how? We’ve seen that issue with BC Housing. And so how do we build enough affordable housing where we’re also not just filling it full of bureaucrats who can’t get anything done. It needs to get done faster. So that’s the lens I’m taking. I was never political before 2021. I was never a part of a political party. Having a fresh face with someone who’s having the experience in both private and public sector is really important and vital.”

IST: “Cost of living is a national and international problem. What would you say the BC United could do differently than the current government? The current government is giving affordability credits, they gave a BC Hydro credit. It looks like they’re trying to do things. What would be done differently?”

mapleline, printing

LAWSON: “I actually had the BC Hydro credit (but it was reversed). A lot of the credits that they’re giving, the cap is making a lot of people not be eligible for them. So are we really helping everybody, no. We do need to help everybody. I’m not saying the top one percent. I’m a family of four. My brothers live on the west shore. Everybody’s struggling right now. I think there’s 23 or 24 taxes, I’d have to look into it. I can’t make any promises.”

“But I know there’s things we can do, and I know as a party we can really push back and try to get some of these things put through. The renter’s rebate wasn’t a rebate it was a tax credit. I think a lot of this stuff the government’s doing is reactionary. We need to be putting more thought into it, and actually making sure it helps the people in our community, not just say ‘we did it’ and then when people say it didn’t help, it’s crickets.”

IST: “What are doing in the last day or so, to get out the word for your campaign?”

LAWSON: “I’m in Sooke today. We’re going to continue to do door-knocking. I’m going to be back in Langford after dinner. [She mentioned that she takes her children along with her at various times.] Just getting out into the community, responding to the emails and social media that’s been coming in my way. And just encouraging people to vote. By-elections are known to have low voter turnout. It’s just about encouraging people to vote. If you want change, get to the polls and get voting.”

IST: “Have you heard from people ‘what by-election?’. Are people aware?”

elena lawson, signage, kids
Young helpers on the Elena Lawson BC United campaign, June 11, 2023. [Twitter]

LAWSON: “About 75 percent are aware. It’s pretty good. People know about it because of the signs, that’s been the giveaway for people. But it’s also telling people, now with advance voting is over. But it’s encouraging people to vote… I know it’s Saturday (for election day) but please go and vote on Saturday. It’s going to be a gorgeous day, but it’s a quick process, it’s important. But people are asking ‘what’s happening’, so I explain it. And they seem receptive of it. So it’s just getting them to the polls.”

IST: “Putting your name out there in politics — especially as a woman — is a big deal.”

LAWSON: “I try to ignore the comments online. People have said ‘Twitter’s not the real world, don’t put your head in that’. But some of the comments are pretty nasty, and being a woman we get hit harder, I believe. My skin is definitely thicker because of the advocacy, so some of the stuff isn’t surprising. But I’m just starting to ignore it. If someone’s respectfully engaging with me and wants to actually know who I am, what I’m about and what I want to do then I’m more than happy to have a conversation with them.”

IST: “On the autism issue — what are the current minister and department not doing right?”

monk, it services

LAWSON: “They’re not doing anything right. When they announced it in October 2021 there was no consultation at all with the autism community. It was pushed out; blindsided thousands of people. Trying to get their attention through the year-and-a-half was hard. Twitter was a great tool for that. We called them out enough and they said ‘okay we’ll meet you’. Since the premier paused it in November last year, he promised interim support for all the children with support needs. He promised deeper meaningful consultation, but that hasn’t happened yet. There’s little or no supports for the other disabilities right now. There hasn’t really been consultation. I feel like they’re throwing money at consultation. But you have parents and service providers lined up and ready to speak to you. Why do you need $4 million (for consultation)? That could support so many kids right now. So I think they’re doing it all wrong. I think individual funding should be expanded to all of the disability groups and children with support needs. [Lawson outlined her personal experience around her son’s autism, including the importance of being able to pivot as his needs changed.] Every child deserves that support. People say ‘oh you just want services for your son’ and I say ‘no, all children need support’. And that would be my big fight. I could bring that lived experience into the legislature.”

IST: “Word is that this by-election is a two-way race between the NDP and the Greens.”

LAWSON: “Well, that could split the vote and I could come right up the middle. You never know what’s going to happen on Saturday. I’m hopeful. I hope people put their trust in me because I’ll prove myself to them. I’m new. People like to go with what they know, and I get that. But even if I’m unsuccessful I’m not going away. This is not a one-time thing, I’m very passionate about it and I feel like our community deserves better!”

elena lawson, bc united, langford
Langford-Juan de Fuca by-election candidate Elena Lawson (BC United) at her information booth at Luxton Spring Fair, May 20, 2023. [Mary P Brooke / Island Social Trends]

Campaign expenses:

Running a campaign is not cheap. For the party and the candidate combined, the limit in Langford-Juan de Fuca is $138,172.50. That has to cover all the bits and pieces including office rental and staffing, signage, on-the-road expenses, promotional materials (e.g. flyers, buttons, posters), and advertising (e.g. in newspapers, online news spaces, social media).

Expenses limits for the two concurrent provincial by-elections are shown below:

Langford-Juan de FucaVancouver-Mount Pleasant
Political parties$69,086.25$69,086.25
Third party sponsors$3,573.43$3,573.43
[Elections BC – June 2023]


Elections BC (main page) | By-Elections section

History of provincial elections in BC (Wikipedia)

By-Elections News & Archive (Island Social Trends)


mary p brooke
Mary P Brooke, Editor, Island Social Trends

Island Social Trends has been covering politics, business, education and communities through a socioeconomic lens since 2008 on south Vancouver Island (previously as West Shore Voice News, and before that both Sooke Voice News and MapleLine Magazine).

Island Social Trends posts news daily at islandsocialtrends.ca (2020-2023). A new bi-weekly print edition will launch in mid-July 2023, with the online news portal continuing robustly.

Mary P Brooke is the editor and publisher of Island Social Trends. Ms Brooke followed and wrote extensively about the COVID pandemic during 2020-2022, and continues to follow that topic as new developments arise. She has covered news of Sooke School District 62 (SD62) in-depth since 2014 and BC education more broadly for over 10 years; in 2022 she ran as a trustee candidate in SD62. In the west shore she also reports on West Shore Parks and Recreation. Mary Brooke is building a FOOD RESILIENCE NEWS ARCHIVE.

Ms Brooke now reports with the BC Legislative Press Gallery. Mary Brooke was awarded the McGeachy Prize in Journalism (University of Saskatchewan, 1981) and in 2023 year has been nominated for the Jack Webster Foundation Shelley Fralic Award honouring women whose work in journalism serves their community. Island Social Trends was mentioned in the House of Commons in June 2023 as a publication making a valuable contribution to reliable news on south Vancouver Island.

Among other qualifications, Ms Brooke holds a health sciences B.Sc. (Foods & Nutrition), a university Certificate in Public Relations, and an industry certificate in digital marketing.

Mary Brooke is actively covering the by-election in Langford-Juan de Fuca. | BY-ELECTION NEWS SECTION