Incumbent New Democratic MLA Rob Fleming enters the race of Victoria Swan-Lake as the prohibitive favourite. While his riding is relatively new, it has known only one MLA since 2009 — Fleming. His margins of victory in both 2009 (31 per cent) and 2013 (34 per cent) have also been impressive by any measure.
His opponents, meanwhile, have entered the race under less than ideal circumstances. The B.C. Liberals did not nominate their candidate Stacey Piercey until April 4 — one week before the dropping of the writ — and B.C. Green Chris Maxwell, while accomplished, has to overcome the perception of being an outsider, even though he was born and raised in Saanich.
Fleming, however, stressed that he would never be complacent about an election, quoting former New Democratic minister Andrew Petter.
“He said ‘run scared or run second,’” said Fleming. But if Fleming shows respect for the process, he also acknowledges that he eyes a larger prize, namely helping elect a New Democratic government.
As education critic, he holds a senior portfolio in the shadow cabinet of party leader John Horgan, a position that has seen him make appearances across the province for candidates on behalf of New Democratic candidates.
“We’re trying to mobilize the education vote and part of this responsibility falls to me,” he said.
As for local issues, Fleming said he will talk about affordable housing and the doctor shortage that currently impacts all demographic groups in the riding.
Opposing Fleming are Piercey for the B.C. Liberals and Maxwell for Greens.
Both entered the race under different circumstances. Maxwell, who was born and raised in Saanich, but currently lives in Vancouver, entered the race in mid-February, so nearly two months before the writ dropped. Maxwell, for the record, has said that he would move to the riding if he were to win it.
Piercey, meanwhile, has a history of local involvement, but did not assume her party’s nomination until April 4, a week before the writ dropped. Piercey, in other words, has some catching up to do. “I have been busy knocking on doors and talking with people, putting up signs, and working with my team to plan our campaign priorities,” she said.
“Certainly, a big part of the campaign for me will involve talking to people and getting to know my community on a deeper level. It is a great opportunity,” she said.
Piercey joins the race as a business owner and human rights advocate, who has worked with a number of organizations speaking on behalf of LGTBQ including Saanich’s Healthy Saanich LGBTQ Sub-Committee and the Greater Victoria School District on its Gender Identity and Expression Policy.
Piercey is one of four trans-gendered candidates running in the provincial election. Also running are Morgane Oger for the New Democrats, as well as Veronica Greer and Nicola Spurling for the B.C. Greens. Spurling made provincial headlines last week when a television report outed her against her explicit consent.
Piercey — who had encouraged Spurling to run — said the incident confirm trans-gendered people still face questions.
“It has become a learning opportunity to share our story, but I don’t want to over-shadow it,” she said. “I want to be taking seriously as a politician and as contributing member of society.”
As for your issues, Piercey plans to talk about education, affordable housing and social services. She is also aware of the NDP’s strength in the riding. “I think our community needs a breath of fresh air,” she said. “My riding needs representation they can relate to. We have a lot of diversity here, and as a human rights advocate, I know how hard it can be. I want to make it easier for people.”
Maxwell meanwhile has so far enjoyed his time on the campaign trail. “It has been exciting,” he said. While Maxwell admits to being new to politics and an introvert, he has enjoyed meeting riding residents. “They are willing to listen, they are willing to have discussions. That’s been real fun.”
Maxwell has also been making a name for himself across the Greater Victoria region. He represented the party at an all-candidates meeting hosted by Victoria Real Estate Board All Candidates and his leader Andrew Weaver identified Maxwell by name in touting the quality of Green party candidates.