When Terry Lake confirmed in late January that he was considering seeking the federal Liberal nomination in the Oct. 21 election, I thought he would do so, as did many others.
It was while interviewing Lake a few weeks later that I knew he was all in.
As part of a story on Kamloops-Thompson-Cariboo MP Cathy McLeod, I called her former and potential future political opponents for their opinions on her three-term tenure as Conservative MP.
It was how Lake referred to McLeod that pinged me to the fact he was already campaigning.
Lake was complimentary of McLeod’s performance as MP and did not offer too much criticism, but it was the tense he used while speaking about her that stood out during the interview.
It was past, not present — as though we were discussing the role of a former MP.
McLeod could have been Betty Hinton, Nelson Riis, Don Cameron or Len Marchand in the discussion.
Perhaps it was deliberate.
Perhaps it was an innocent, yet consistent slip of the tongue.
In any event, during that interview, McLeod “was a very good constituency MP.”
McLeod “always had time for people and good staff who worked through those issues.”
It’s subtle, but it’s something.
Now that Lake has confirmed what most assumed would happen, political nerds are getting excited about this heavyweight election campaign showdown.
(Yes, Lake still needs to secure the nomination and he may face others, but he will be the Liberal candidate.)
His main challenge will be to convince the conservative B.C. Liberal supporters who helped him become MLA to back him federally.
Provincially, conservative voters are essentially stuck with one party — the B.C. Liberals, a coalition of federal Liberals and Conservatives. Federally, they have McLeod’s Conservative Party of Canada as an option.
“I know some of those people would be disappointed for me thinking about running for the [federal] Liberals,” Lake told KTW in February as he spoke of the conservative element that backed him as a B.C. Liberal.
The 2015 federal election saw the Liberals garner the most votes ever in this riding, with Steve Powrie receiving 21,215 at the ballot box.
NDP candidate Bill Sundhu received about 200 more votes, with a total of 21,466.
And, while McLeod won with 24,595 votes, she did so with her smallest percentage of the vote ever — 35 per cent.
In 2011, McLeod was re-elected with 52 per cent of the vote. In 2008, she won with 46 per cent of the vote.
Granted, the 2015 election was awash in an ABC (anybody but Conservative) contingent among the electorate — and that helped Powrie and Sundhu and hurt McLeod.
There were even some past Conservative voters who decided to go with Powrie or Sundhu.
Without such a movement this year, where will those votes go?
Yes, the SNC-Lavalin controversy and the massive broken promise in electoral reform could harm Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and his Liberal party, but does the average voter really care about those issues?
As gas prices rise ever higher and taxes and fees swallow more of our paycheques and more tax dollars are spent on climate-change mitigation efforts, I’d bet the average voter is far more concerned with the issue Bill Clinton’s campaign strategist James Carville homed in on during the 1992 U.S. presidential election: “The economy, stupid.”
How the voter’s household finances look in October will play a large part in which candidate gets the nod.