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Cariboo-Prince George could be a key battleground this fall

Is Cariboo-Prince George in play?

Right now it’s hard to imagine Justin Trudeau’s Liberals winning anything come October, but they seem to think Cariboo-Prince George might be within grasp. The signs are all there – we’ve had three cabinet ministers roll through town since January and expect more over the summer. Plus, there are various funding announcements that seemingly come out the blue, such as funding to make Prince George a Welcoming Francophone Community. OK, sure.

There’s even scuttlebutt that Trudeau might make a campaign swing through the city. That could be wishful thinking, but if the Liberals think there’s ground to be gained here it could become a reality.

And while we can be skeptical and dismissive, it’s a good thing. Whether Chretien or Harper, Prince George has been Ignoresville when it comes to sitting prime ministers, especially during a campaign. It will be a refreshing change to see leaders actually campaigning for our votes. After all, if Trudeau visits Conservative leader Andrew Scheer will likely follow suit and possibly NDP leader Jagmeet Singh. Green Party of Canada leader Elizabeth May was here a few weeks ago.

It’s nice to be in the mix rather than just the topping.

So could the Liberals make current MP Todd Doherty a one-term wonder?

There was a seismic shift in voting in the riding in 2015. Doherty won with 36.6 per cent of the vote, down roughly 20 points from his predecessor Dick Harris who routinely captured 50 per cent of the vote or more.

Still, it will be an uphill battle for the challengers, especially given Trudeau’s massive mishandling of the SNC Lavalin scandal. Doherty has kept his nose clean during his first term in office, is the fisheries critic, and his pet project has been a PTSD bill that garnered support from all parties. However, he seems to be quiet on other issues, which may just be the media not pressuring him on issues of the day … such as whether he supports Alberta’s threat to cut of B.C.’s oil etc.

He will, in all likelihood, be challenged by Liberal Tracy Calogheros again. In 2015, Calogheros captured 31.5 per cent of the vote while riding the ‘sunny ways’ wave. It will be tougher for her this time around, even with a parade of cabinet ministers coming through town, as the anyone-but-Trudeau vote will likely be a factor.

However, she doesn’t have a huge amount of ground to make up and whether she can will rest on a couple of things.

Firstly, who will the NDP put forward in Cariboo-Prince George. Trent Derrick, who captured 25.8 per cent of the votes in 2015 isn’t going to run again as he is now a School District 57 trustee. Bobby Deepak, who ran twice for the NDP provincially, likely isn’t going to run again. Not sure who else the NDP have. Perhaps they will be ‘strategic’ in this riding. In other words, they will undoubtedly support any candidate who wants to run, they might not put too many resources into the riding in hopes of helping a anyone-but-Doherty-and-the-Conservatives campaign.

The 13,879 votes that Derrick got last time are certainly enough to make a difference.

The other big wild card is the Green Party of Canada and what happens to it at the national level. With Jody Wilson-Rabould and Jane Philpott sent packing by the Liberals, those two may be looking for a new home. They certainly won’t be going to the Conservatives and it’s doubtful they’ll move to the NDP. However, should Wilson-Raybould move to the Green Party, which is now more suited to what drew her to the Liberal Party – doing politics differently – it would be an immediate game-changer, nationally, and likely bring about the Liberal Party’s demise at the polls. It’s not that the Greens would suddenly rise to power, but the Green Party would be seen by many Liberal voters, who are having a tough time swallowing the tripe coming from their leader, as a place to park their vote. That would benefit the Conservatives unless, of course, Maxime Bernier’s Peoples Party of Canada gains some traction somewhere and splits the right-of-centre vote.

A minority government where a coalition of three parties is needed to win the day? Oh my, it could be a dizzying fall … election.

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