Victoria MP-elect Rankin has different priorities today

Victoria environmental lawyer no longer a young father

New Victoria MP Murray Rankin was sworn in in Ottawa on Tuesday.

Murray Rankin has no illusions about the job that lies ahead of him as Victoria’s latest member of Parliament.

In 2003, the lifelong NDP supporter was approached to run for the provincial NDP, but family considerations put higher office aspirations on hold.

“I had very young children at that time, and in my view, I wasn’t ready to make the sacrifice that anybody seeking public office must make,” he said, a day after winning the seat vacated by the NDP’s Denise Savoie.

“(Denise) modeled civility and earned the respect of people on all sides of the House of Commons, and I’d like to try and carry on her tradition,” he said.

For decades, Rankin, 62, has been working behind the scenes on various NDP campaigns. He spent the past year mounting the NDP’s legal opposition to the proposed Enbridge Gateway pipeline project.

While he worked hard on the campaign trail to secure his first foray into public office, no one predicted Monday night’s roller coaster ride that nearly saw Donald Galloway and the Green party usurp the NDP stronghold.

Rankin took 37 per cent of the vote, only one per cent lower than Savoie’s first win in 2006.

But Galloway finished just three points back with 34 per cent, a 22-per-cent increase over the 2011 election. Savoie’s closest competitor in 2006 was Liberal candidate David Mulroney, who took 28 per cent of the vote.

James Lawson, a political scientist at the University of Victoria, said Rankin’s success involved a number of factors, including his longstanding link to the environmental movement, endorsements from a wide range of interest groups and a connection to UVic, where students, who often do the groundwork on NDP campaigns, were available.

Less surprising, Lawson said, was the erosion of Conservative support, down 10 points to 14-per-cent support.

Anti-Enbridge sentiment, concern over increased Chinese investment in Canada and the government’s “untraditional approach to parliamentary procedure,” likely weighed on voters’ decisions, he said.

While the Green Party’s success was impressive in both Victoria and Calgary Centre, where it finished a healthy third, Elizabeth May and her organizers will be cognizant of the current phasing out of federal voting subsidies, which saw $2 of taxpayer funding allotted to parties for each vote.

The subsidy was introduced in 2006 to reduce reliance on corporate contributions in election campaigns. Its cancellation by the Conservative government will hit the smaller parties the hardest.

“I was surprised at the inability of the Liberals to pick up more votes, based on emphasis that Paul Summerville placed on the sewage treatment issue,” Lawson said.

The Liberals’ 13-per-cent share of the vote was more surprising, he added, since environmentalist and former Victoria Liberal MP David Anderson is supporting ARESST, the citizens group opposed to the $783-million project.

With the dust settling from the byelection, Rankin will spend the coming weeks securing a constituency office, hiring staff and getting accustomed to the regular six-and-a-half-hour flight between Victoria and Ottawa.

He shows unabashed excitement when anticipating his first day in the House of Commons.

“I’ve got lots of energy … my two children have grown up, so it’s a perfect time in my life to just work as hard as I can for the people of Victoria,” he said.

dpalmer@vicnews.com

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