Tuesday, September 21, 2021 | COLWOOD, BC
by Mary P Brooke, Editor | Island Social Trends
Winning by a significantly solid margin in the September 20 federal election, NDP incumbent Randall Garrison will head back to the House of Commons for a fourth term as the Member of Parliament for Esquimalt-Saanich-Sooke.
Garrison was new on the federal political scene in 2011 and handily took the west shore region to the progressive left. But unlike in 2015 and 2019 when the Green and Liberal candidates were nipping at his campaign heels, the 2021 election yesterday saw the long-time politician pull in a resounding victory with 42.6% of the vote.
The next-closest turnout in last night’s election was by the Conservative candidate (Laura Frost) with 21.6% and the Liberal candidate (Doug Kobayashi) with an almost identical 21.5% vote capture.
The Green candidate (Harley Gordon) gleaned 9.0% of the ESS vote, while the People’s Party got 4.8% (probably cutting into the Conservative and Green voter bases), and the Communist candidate (Tyson Strandlund) nipped in with 0.4%.
Strong ground-game & knowing the ropes:
Factors in that success include a strong ground-game around the many community areas of the geographically riding (Esquimalt, Colwood, part of Saanich, part of View Royal, and Sooke west to Jordan River) and due to COVID shifting their ‘door knocking’ to heavy use of voter-contact by phone.
There was also a strong team of volunteers who worked extra-long hours due to the pandemic protocol overload on everything. “There were fewer volunteers but they were very energetic,” says Garrison. “We managed to contact all known supporters twice during the campaign. We worked hard to make sure voters voted,” he said, explaining that a lot of NDP voters fall into demographics of young adults and low income, and often don’t have easily-found time to get out and vote.
The Garrison campaign participated in an on-campus info event at the local Camosun College campus, to provide information to youth on how to get out and vote. This was especially important, he feels, due to Elections Canada not offering the Vote on Campus program for this election.
But as well, it’s because of many pre-election factors. As a Member of Parliament, his constituency office in Saanich helped out a lot of people with COVID-related financial supports including small businesses that needed help with things like wage subsidy applications.
Fixing the GIS clawback:
And right up close to the election (in July and August) there were many seniors who told his office about having their Guaranteed Income Supplement (GIS) clawed back because they took the CERB pandemic support in 2020; so far 80 cases have been handled by his office.
Garrison says fixing the GIS problem might be handled as a cabinet order and not require a legislative change to direct the Canada Revenue Agency (CRA) to reassign people’s 2020 CERB income to instead be an emergency benefit. Practical, simple, and really understanding the problem, and it will be up to the re-elected Liberal government to do this. Seniors are counting on it.
Many seniors spoke up about the GIS clawback in August and during the election campaign period.
People remembered being helped during COVID:
People remembered the impact of being assisted in that way by their local MP. “We helped everybody. We worked hard to get people on those programs,” said Garrison in a post-election interview with Island Social Trends today. Some people were surprised at the open-hearted support. “They had never been helped before,” Garrison said.
In the House of Commons Garrison and his fellow NDP MPs effectively pressured the Liberal minority government to bump up the CERB benefit from $1,000 to $2,000 and coordinated input from the CFIB and CLC to push for the wage subsidy to be 75% instead of 10%. This shows the NDP being in touch with the reality of how individual Canadians, families, and small businesses have to deal with things in real life.
“People appreciated that we worked hard for them,” says Garrison, in reflecting on his solid re-election in the economically diverse Esquimalt-Saanich-Sooke.
Understanding the reality of family load was another insight that helped his team bring out the vote. “People work maybe three jobs between two parents, pick up the kids from school, and do all they have to do. It didn’t leave a lot of time for getting out to vote before the polls closed at 7 pm,” Garrison said today.
“Election workers seemed to be less well trained this time,” Garrison said today. Knowing that, his team would phone to remind about the voting place hours and be supportive for people getting out to vote including guiding them to the right polling location.
Things that helped in this pandemic-election was contacting potential voters by phone, much more than in previous elections. Garrison feels that will carry over into future elections.
Pandemic and climate crisis:
“We’re not out of the pandemic. And we haven’t addressed the climate crisis,” says Garrison. These two crises will (or should) rightfully colour all the work that is done by the 44th parliament.
There are many more issues to deal with as the MP in the months and years ahead. He hopes to pick up on the momentum of his work on legislation about coercive relationships (psychological abuse) which had support from all parties in Committee.
As the NDP Critic for Justice, Garrison introduced a private member’s bill in the House of Commons on October 5, 2020 making controlling coercive conduct in an intimate relationship a criminal offence.
“The current structure of the Criminal Code simply makes the police walk away, even when they know that situations are potentially very dangerous. They don’t have the authority to intervene. So it creates that tool for earlier intervention,” Garrison said earlier this year about the bill that he brought forward.
All bills that were on the table at dissolution on August 15 and all committees up to that date are now history. Everything starts from scratch again in a new parliament.
Waiting on the final ballot count:
The next session won’t get rolling until all the votes are counted (about one million mail-in ballots still to counted across Canada). Garrison points out that five seats could still be won by the NDP (in most cases at the expense of the Liberals):
- Davenport (Alejandra Bravo only needs 348 votes to win in this west-end Toronto riding, which would overturn the Liberal candidate);
- Vancouver-Granville (previously Liberal until Jody Wilson-Raybould ran as an independent in 2019, where NDP Candidate Anjali Appadurai only needs 231 votes to win over the Liberal candidate);
- Berthier—Maskinongé (where previous NDP candidate Ruth Ellen Brosseau ran again in this election after a 2-year hiatus, and would only need 924 votes through mail-in ballots in order to win that seat in Quebec over the Bloc Quebecois candidate);
- Windsor-Tecumseh (where NDP candidate Cheryl Hardcastle needs only 502 votes to win in that southern-Ontario riding); and
- Hamilton Mountain (where NDP candidate Malcolm Allen would need 664 more votes to win in that southern-Ontario riding).
Garrison is proud that he has presented seven bills in the House of Commons during this three terms to date. His bill on transgender rights was adopted, which he considered his biggest accomplishment.
He also worked on legislation to support the mental health of people in the military, which got unanimous support by all parties.