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Fry voters up for grabs in Vancouver-Burrard

Some say the loneliest job in the world right now lies in spreading the word of Vancouver's two provincial by-elections, which take place October 29 in the Vancouver-Burrard and Vancouver-Fairview ridings.

People might be tired of running into politicians trying to win their vote on the streets, but the by-elections are crucial for filling vacancies left by former Vancouver-Burrard Liberal MLA Lorne Mayencourt and former Vancouver-Fairview NDP MLA Gregor Robertson as they moved on to federal and municipal endeavors.

"You almost feel a bit apologetic," said Arthur Griffiths of his pampleteering efforts in the days following the federal election. Griffiths, 51, is a former Canucks owner, Point Grey resident, and Liberal contender for Vancouver-Burrard.

Griffiths figures Hedy Fry's recent victory in Vancouver-Centre bodes well for his provincial run.

"What it demonstrates is above all else, she's done her job in this riding and people recognize her for that," Griffiths said.

But Griffith's NDP opponent, 27-year-old COPE park board commissioner and West End resident Spencer Herbert said, "A number of federal Liberals I've been talking to are taking down their Hedy Fry signs and putting up Spencer Herbert signs. I've also found that with Adriane Carr supporters." "What people have said to me is, 'We've sent our message to Harper, and now's our turn to send one to Campbell," Herbert said.

Conversely, Griffiths hopes the by-election will send a message to NDP leader Carole James.

"The economy is fragile," he said. "We have very solid evidence of a history of [NDP] mismanagement in this province. Every single instance that there was a tax reduction issue, the NDP has voted against it."

Former B.C. Liberal MLA Lorne Mayencourt vacated the seat to run against Fry as a Conservative; he finished second. Green Party of B.C. candidate Drina Read is also running in the West End riding.

SFU political scientist Kennedy Stewart predicts a hard road for Herbert, despite a strong contingent of NDP supporters in the West End.

"By-election turnout is usually a bit lower than general election turnout, and, as NDP voters are slightly less prone to vote than Liberal voters, this tendency will favour the Liberals," he warned. "I think the Liberals are expecting to hold this seat. If he loses, the consolation for Mr. Herbert will be that he is in very good shape to capture Vancouver-West End in May 2009. Mr. Griffiths will likely move to much safer Vancouver-False Creek."

And if Herbert wins the by-election, Stewart said he'd be unstoppable. "A win for Mr. Herbert would be very worrying for the Liberals as he will have knocked off a high-profile Liberal candidate on Liberal turf, which gives Mr. Herbert the opportunity to be a giant killer or sorts."

While Griffiths said his supporters have been 'very happy' with what Gordon Campbell has done for the province, Herbert begged to differ.

"People don't like the right-wing, really ideological, divide-and-conquer politics which both Harper and Campbell employ," he said.

Jackie Wong reports for the Westender

Editor's note: An earlier version of this report mistakenly identified Fry's campaign manager as a Herbert supporter. Alan Fetherstonhaugh wrote to clarify: "The idea of me supporting [Herbert] is as absurd as me supporting Harper." The Hook regrets the error.

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