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Harper Conservatives spending lots of time in BC lately

Prime Minister Stephen Harper speaks with the Vancouver Board of Trade (Jan 6/14)

VANCOUVER (NEWS1130) – From photo-ops to a full-on prime ministerial tour, the federal Conservatives have been paying extra attention to BC lately.

The reason is pretty simple, according to York University political science professor Dennis Pilon:

“BC has been good to them. In the last election, Stephen Harper’s Conservatives were clearly the victors in British Columbia, followed by the New Democrats. They were second in a lot of ridings they didn’t actually win. They’re looking pretty solid.”

Pilon believes the Tories are making a very calculated effort to remind British Columbians that they are not being taken for granted.

“Given the limits the Tories face in some other parts of the country, they really need to make sure they reap the most benefit from this expansion of seats in areas of strength for them,” Pilon tells News1130.

“They are not going to make any headway in Quebec, they haven’t done anything to repair any of the damage that has gone down during the Conservative’s time in power. They’re probably not going to make a lot of new breakthroughs in Ontario because there has been a lot of bad press for some of the Conservative politicians in Ontario, like Rob Ford.”

Pilon feels the Conservatives are attempting to keep a grip on their majority government, focusing on areas of strong support, particularly some of the suburban areas where they’ve made progress in the last decade.  And while the NDP may represent the biggest threat to the Conservatives in BC, Pilon says the Tories can’t underestimate the potential for Liberal support.

“The Liberals have always had a stronghold in Vancouver [and] Vancouver Island usually had one or two Liberals lurking around somewhere, so an increased profile for Justin Trudeau and the sense the Liberals present a realistic chance to beat the Conservatives might draw some of those fence-sitters who sometimes go New Democrat back to the Liberals.”

The very visible Conservative presence on the West Coast may also be meant to draw attention away from recent controversy.

“We’re a long way off from a federal election; the Conservatives can comfortably sit on their majority until then. But I think what they are trying to do is deflect some of the recent attention to scandal: the Conservative difficulties in the Senate, some of their broken promises in different policy areas, a feeling that maybe the Conservatives are somewhat distant from the base that elected them,” explains Pilon.

“They’re trying to repair some of that damage and a good photo-op in a local community goes a long way to saying ‘We are here, we still care about you.'”