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Saanich-Gulf Islands divide too strong for May: expert

Saanich-Gulf Islands may be the next riding to keep an eye on in federal politics.

Two fresh new faces announced their entrance into the race for Liberal candidacy in the riding this week; despite the fact they will be up against federal Green leader Elizabeth May.

Renée Hetherington, a research scientist, author, and businesswoman, and Kit Spence, entrepreneur and international democratic development expert will be vying for the Liberal candidacy to be elected this September; both with the hopes of tipping the Liberal-NDP divide that has landed the area with Conservative leader, Gary Lunn.

“In the 2008 federal election, federal liberal candidate Briony Penn came close to unseating then-Natural Resources minister Gary Lunn,” a press release from the Liberal Party stated. This, though, was greatly influenced by NDP candidate Julian West dropping from the race. Generally the NDP Liberal divide is evenly split.

This means however, that if May steps into the ring, as she’s decided to do, after considering it along with several other ridings, she may only widen that divide and give even more strength to the conservatives she also hopes to oust.

“It does appear that the majority of people in this large riding don’t want a Conservative, but they can’t agree on any single alternative,” said Dr. Dennis Pilon, political science professor at the University of Victoria who specializes in BC politics.

While the Liberals put forward strong candidates to try and draw votes away from the NDP and Green, the Greens are hoping a high profile candidate in the area will be enough to push them through. In such a divided riding, however, Pilon said May would be taking the wrong approach.

“It would be better, in my mind, for May to try to find a riding where the New Democrats are hopeless, but they get a chunk of support, and then she can try and take over the Liberal party’s vote.”

With former Liberal Saanich-Gulf Islands candidate Briony Penn handing her support to Hetherington over May, who had also sought her support, the Liberal campaign will be strong.

Which means in Saanich-Gulf Islands May has one choice, and its not likely to pull through, said Pilon.

“With the NDP and the Liberals so evenly split, she needs to get one of those campaign to fold pretty much right away. And given that both of them are fairly equal, both of them are going to stay in.”

“So I’m not sure that Saanich-Gulf Islands is the best choice for Elizabeth May.”

Christine McLaren reports for The Tyee.

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