Home Election Tracker Canadian Federal 2021 or beyond Randall Garrison: outdoor campaign kickoff for 4th term

Randall Garrison: outdoor campaign kickoff for 4th term

Sunday August 29, 2021 | ESQUIMALT-SAANICH-SOOKE [Updated August 30, 2021]

by Mary P Brooke, Editor | Island Social Trends

It was under sunny skies but also a canopy of mature trees that NDP incumbent Randall Garrison held his official campaign kickoff… a symbolic combination of optimism but protection, reflective of the pandemic times we live in.

Surrounded by a smattering of huge orange and green pom-poms on tall stakes in the Craigflower-Kosapsom Park along the Gorge waterway (in the Tillicum area at Admirals Road at Gorge Road West in Saanich) the Saturday August 28 gathering of supporters and a few members of the public was held fully two weeks into the five-week 44th federal election campaign.

randall garrison, gorge waterway
NDP incumbent Randall Garrison (Esquimalt-Saanich-Sooke) chatting with voters along the Gorge Waterway, August 28, 2021 {Island Social Trends]

Some people showed up right at the beginning to personally express their support to Garrison but didn’t stay, due to COVID concerns. It’s hard to imagine a safer pandemic-season environment than a park with a slight breeze, but everyone was cautious nonetheless. The candidate and all organizers wore face masks the entire time, for COVID protection, except when speaking at the microphone.

randall garrison, mitzi dean
Shift change at the microphone: Esquimalt-Saanich-Sooke NDP incumbent Randall Garrison was introduced by Esqumalt-Metchosin MLA Mitzi Dean, August 28, 2021 outdoors in Saanich. [Mary P Brooke | Island Social Trends]

The only two speakers were Randall Garrison and — as his emcee — local MLA for Esquimalt-Metchosin, Mitzi Dean.

There was a fun element to the day. In addition to the staked pom poms there were orange puffy balls hanging from some of the trees, organizers sported orange attire of various kinds (from tops to shoes, and of course masks), and refreshments (though it’s always tough to indulge in refreshments during COVID as it means stepping back and away, for taking off your mask).

Fourth term & the shared COVID experience:

Down to business. Garrison after 10 years as an MP (and many years as a city councillor and college instructor before that) is an elegant speaker in a completely natural way. His points get across and hit home.

Garrison was first elected in what is now the Esquimalt-Saanich-Sooke riding in May 2011, then re-elected in 2015 and 2019. This is his bid for a fourth term in the House of Commons representing a large swath of south Vancouver Island, west side.

Randall Garrison, voters
NDP incumbent for Esquimalt-Saanich-Sooke chatting with voters at his campaign kickoff on August 28, 2021. [Island Social Trends]

The most important thing to say yesterday was said first, and that was Garrison acknowledging what everyone has come through in the last year and a half. He articulated well that everyone has had huge losses — the loss of loved ones or family members due to COVID, or suffering from long-term health impacts of COVID infection, or losing their job, or their small business has lost income, or they’ve lost their home.

“These are serious losses. It will take a long time to recover, both fiscal and mental health of people in our community. And we’re not done yet,” Randall Garrison told the crowd first, before getting into the politics.

The discovery of unmarked graves at former Indian Residential Schools was “layered on top of” the challenges of the pandemic this year. “I can’t imagine how difficult it is, for those communities, to have to work to identify those children and try to get them home,” Garrison said. “Reconciliation and land acknowledgments can’t just be words, they have to be backed up with real actions to build partnership and move the Indigenous people forward in the future.”

“But for the rest of us, we can’t continue to look away from the way Indigenous people have been treated in this country,” he said, before bridging to another crisis, that’s the climate.

Indisputable climate change:

“We are living on a planet on fire,” Garrison continued, somehow keeping the crowd fully engaged despite the grim topics at hand. “Forest fires in British Columbia, the heat waves that killed many of the poor and elderly, and it’s time for more than just setting targets. It’s time for real concrete actions.” Over 560 mostly poor and elderly people living alone died in their homes during the heat dome in BC this summer, June 25 to 29.

wildfire, active
Other than 2017 and 2018, this year has been the worst wildfire season in BC (web- July 25, 2021).

“I introduced the motion a year ago to take all the subsidies off fossil fuels and give that money directly to a crown corporation to start building renewal energy projects in every community across the country. Starting in Alberta, northern BC and Saskatchewan where energy workers and families are at risk from this transition. We have to include the working families if we’re going to move forward and do the things we have to do,” all tightly packaged and said just like that.

Supporting all Canadians:

“In this minority government, the NDP has worked very hard to make sure Canadians get access to what they need,” said Garrison, in outlining how the NDP really did ‘break home the bacon’ for a large number of Canadians in need during the pandemic.

jagmeet singh, laurel collins, randall garrison
NDP Leader addressed an outdoor crowd in Victoria on July 9, with Laurel Collins, MP (Victoria) and Randall Garrison, MP (Esquimalt-Saanich-Sooke). [Island Social Trends – Mary P Brooke]

“In the beginning the Liberals said ‘we’ll do a few things’ and the NDP said “no, let’s not tinker with unemployment insurance, let’s have a universal benefit'”, he recounted.

It was the NDP in the House of Commons who pushed for and achieved the $2,000-per-month level for the Canada Emergency Response Benefit (CERB) to be eligible for anyone (individuals or revenue-impacted small business owners) and the 75% level of wage subsidy so that businesses could manage to retain employees. For the latter, Randall credits NDP Leader Jagmeet Singh for bringing together the Labour Congress and the Canadian Federation of Independent Business (CFIB) to collaborate in approaching the Liberal minority government for appropriate levels of support.

“That’s the way that Jagmeet works. He brings people together to get things done,” said Garrison, who it was, in fact, who brought Jagmeet to the forefront of NDP federal politics back in 2017 with a sort of “he’s the one to watch” approach.

Ten days paid sick leave was also an NDP push during the early days of the pandemic, but that didn’t entirely catch fire with the government (though it’s in the Liberal election campaign set of promises now).

An unwanted election:

Getting into the nitty gritty of politics: “What (Trudeau) means by a dysfunctional parliament is that he had to talk to other people.” This underscores the “selfish summer election” label that the NDP have slapped onto Trudeau and the Liberals, saying it really wasn’t necessary to call an election in the ongoing pandemic, but rather that the important work of governing be carried out uninterrupted in these challenging times.

campaign signage, saanich, garrison
The battle is on. Road-side signs for three campaigns in Esquimalt-Saanich-Sooke. [August 28, 2021 | Island Social Trends]

“You tell us what you want to work on, and we’ll work on that list with you,” is how Garrison repackaged Jagmeet Singh’s appeal to Trudeau, as an alternative to calling an election.

Canada does have a fixed election period, that being at least four years; it might not have been until the fall of 2023 that an election would have been called.

Yet here we are, with the Liberal government hoping to score a majority. Given that they issued billions of dollars in short order to deal with the pandemic (which not many people or political foes have complained about), Trudeau said on Day One of the campaign (August 15) that he feels Canadians should have a choice of government that would be spending that sort of money.

But as no one was really complaining, it does somewhat underscore the ‘wanting a majority’ argument,. There’s also the idea of protecting the Liberal Party legacy in the history books. If the Liberals win a majority — then it’s less likely that the huge debt and deficit that Canada now finds itself in is not hung like an albatross around the neck of the Liberals for the next 50 years.

Heading back to Ottawa:

“Whatever happens in this election, New Democrats are going to back to fight and make sure that supports are still there for families and individuals that need them, and for small businesses,” said Garrison. And then in a punctuated way, he reminded: “The pandemic… is… not… over.”

Randall Garrison, MP, Esquimalt-Saanich-Sooke
Randall Garrison, MP (Esquimalt-Saanich-Sooke) speaking in the House of Commons [file photo]

He further talked about needing a society that needs to be more resilient. “To face this kind of crisis (referring to the pandemic) we need an expanded health care system”. That led to outlining the NDP’s promise to deliver on Pharmacare for all Canadians, as well as taking care of mental health and providing dental care.

He noted that “it was always Tommy Douglas’ vision that we would start with hospital care then expand the system over time to include all health care”. In recent years society has come up to speed regarding the importance of mental well-being, but it still seems to be a challenge to turn the corner on dental care even though it’s proven that poor oral health contributes directly to other serious health challenges including heart health.

A national Pharmacare program “would save us all money directly”, Garrison explained, after pointing out that due to the cost of some medications that people either cut back on the dosages they should be taking or otherwise forego essentials like food or heat in order to be able to pay for their pharmaceutical prescriptions. Canadians would be healthier, so it would save the system money, he said, connecting the dots.

A national Pharmacare program would save money for all Canadians and the health care system overall.

It will take an NDP show of force in the election results on September 20 to return enough NDP MPs to Ottawa to get all those health-related things done, he argued. “We’ll get the job done.”

Pandemic lessons, NDP directions:

“The lessons from the pandemic are really clear. We know that we can do great things together as a country when we pull together. We’ve done that during the pandemic,” said Garrison as he wrapped up his 12 minute speech. We know that we face great challenges in the future. The ongoing pandemic, future mutations of the pandemic, and the climate crisis. So what we need, is to build that Canada where everybody’s part of the fabric of the country, where no one’s left out, and we can all pull together to meet these challenges.”

jagmeet singh, affordable
NDP Leader Jagmeet Singh promotes Pharmacare on the 44th federal election campaign trail on August 27, 2021 in Thunder Bay, Ontario. [Zoom]

How do we do that? “I think there’s an easy answer, and that would be to make Jagmeet the prime minister! My goals are high!”, pitched Garrison, to a round of chuckles, hollers and cheers from the crowd. “But even if we don’t make that goal, New Democrats will be there fighting for things people need no matter who’s the government, we’ll keep the pressure up, to make sure that these things get done, on behalf of all Canadians and on behalf of the future generations to come, beyond us.”

“We’ll be in there fighting, and you can count on us to get the job done to build that Canada that we all want Canada to be. We all know that Canada can be. We just have to work hard to get there.”

Vote early, beat the variant:

Randall Garrison, voting, advance voting, Esquimalt-Saanich-Sooke, Colwood
In the last federal election, Esquimalt-Saanich-Sooke incumbent Randall Garrison, NDP cast his vote in Colwood on the afternoon of Thanksgiving, October 13, 2019 [West Shore Voice News – Mary Brooke]

The NDP incumbent encouraged people to talk to family and friends, to encourage them to get out to vote, and encourage them to vote early. “The more that vote by mail and advance polls September 10-13, the fewer people will be crowded together on election day, and the safer this election will be,” Garrison proposed.

“Vote early, let’s keep the crowds down on election day, let’s make this election as safe as we can possibly make it, even though it’s been forced on us and we didn’t want it,” he concluded.

With his message, repeated again, to get out and vote early, there was a hint of thinking that perhaps the fourth wave of the COVID-19 pandemic that we’re now in (driven by the Delta variant) could be at even worse case-count levels three weeks from now. It would be a shame for the democratic process to have COVID be the enemy in yet another way, if it keeps people back from their civic right to vote.

Election day is Monday September 20. Voting by mail (well ahead of that date) is another option.

esquimalt-saanich-sooke, map
Federal riding of Esquimalt-Saanich-Sooke [Elections Canada, 2021]

Elections Canada shows a population of 120,834 in Esquimalt-Saanich-Sooke (that’s about one-third the population of the Greater Victoria area).

The NDP have launched a website to make voting instructions easy, called How You Vote.

orange wave
The NDP held five seats on Vancouver Island at dissolution, and is running an ‘Orange Island’ campaign to maintain their island stronghold in the 44th federal general election.

Saturday’s VIPs:

Mitzi Dean (also now the BC Minister of families) told the crowd that since 2017 she has been honoured to have worked alongside Randall Garrison, pointing out the integrity and respect and being in service that she sees in their collaboration. She noted how Randall is able to work with all levels of government, and highlighted the difficult files that he has worked on in Ottawa over the past 10 years including military, mental health, diversity, and sexual orientation.

Trudy Spiller, who is Co-Chair of the National Aboriginal Commission of the NDP and Vice President of Randall’s Esquimalt-Saanich-Sooke riding association, was there to help cheer things along. Garrison said he has appreciated her input on Indigenous issues for now 10 years.

Also in the park yesterday to help launch Randall’s campaign were Saanich Mayor Fred Haynes and Saanich Councillor Colin Plant who is chair of the Capital Regional District. Colwood Mayor Rob Martin sent his regrets.

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