Fresh face changes the race

Kingston and the Islands a contentious riding for next federal election

Ted Hsu wins the Liberal nomination which has been held by Peter Milliken for 22 years.
Ted Hsu wins the Liberal nomination which has been held by Peter Milliken for 22 years.

After 22 years in seat, the Liberal Party will fight hard to hold the riding in the next federal election.

Following the Liberal nomination of Ted Hsu on Nov. 7, all four Kingston and the Island parties are preparing for the next federal election.

Given the enthusiasm surrounding the nomination, Hsu said he’s confident Liberals can hold the riding.

“I think it’s a very important election,” he said on the night of his nomination. “We feel that it will be very important to win our seat in Kingston [and the Islands].”

Hsu said, based on numbers from the 2008 election, Conservatives are the biggest competition for the Liberal Party.

“[Conservative candidate Abrams] had a very strong finish so he would be the threat to win the riding,” he said.

Sean Torrie, president of Queen’s University Liberal Association said the Liberals are likely to hold the riding because of the state of the Harper government.

“I think the riding is likely to stay Liberal because Stephen Harper’s Conservative government has proven to be incompetent,” he told the Journal via email. “The closure of the prison farms in Kingston is an example of their incompetence and how this government puts ideology ahead of reality.”

Torrie, ArtSci ’11, said the biggest obstacle for Kingston and the Islands Liberals in the next election will be name recognition.

“Our retiring candidate Peter Milliken is well known in Kingston [and the Islands] and the Conservative candidate has [run] before. For Ted, running as a brand new candidate against a Conservative candidate that has [run] before and has some name recognition will be difficult,” he said. “However, the nomination race has given Ted some exposure in the community.”

According to President of Kingston and the Islands Liberal Association Ron Hartling, there’s a general consensus among members that the focus needs to be on defeating the Conservative candidate in the next election.

“The Conservative candidate came uncomfortably close to winning the last election,” he said. “The margin was only 6.6 per cent if I remember correctly. It’s the same Conservative candidate [Brian Abrams]. He’s well-established in the community and the Conservative Party has been funnelling money to the riding.”

Hartling said focusing on defeating the Conservative candidate is natural because of the different values the parties advocate.

“There’s a lot of common values between [the] Liberal, NDP and Green [Parties] … they’re essentially all progressive.  The values of the Harper Conservatives are very different,” he said, adding that an example of this is the attitude the parties have towards correctional services.

“The rest of us believe in correction in the sense of rehabilitation whereas … the Harper Conservatives want to follow the failed US model and turn correction into incarceration. The prison farm situation is exactly that.”

Hartling said support for different nominees within the riding shouldn’t hinder the MP campaign.

 “The members organize into camps and bring new members in [for nomination] …. It’s a competition … sometimes a fierce one. In a healthy riding association, you have to ensure everyone comes together,” he said, adding that the nomination campaigns have given the association a new wave of energy.

“I think it’s really given the riding association a boost. The energy is there to prepare for the next campaign,” he said. “It’s a changing of the guards from Peter Milliken of 22 years … to a new candidate and a new generation of volunteers.”

Conservative candidate Brian Abrams could not be reached for comment.

Vice-President (Federal) of Queen’s University Conservative Association, Yuchen Wang, agreed with Hartling that when an election is called it will likely come down to the Liberals and Conservatives.

“In past years, [Conservatives] have come close to winning the riding,” he said. “Most likely, it will be a race between the Liberals and the Conservatives.”

Wang, ArtSci ’13, said Abrams is a well-established candidate.

“Abrams is a local candidate. He grew up in Kingston. He’s a lawyer. He knows the legal system. He knows the people of Kingston … [and] all the general problems we have [here].”

Daniel Beals, candidate for NDP, said his party has a serious chance at winning the riding.

“Prior to 22 years ago, Kingston [and the Islands] had 20 odd years of being Progressive Conservative. For the last 40 or 50 years, Kingston [and the Islands] has come towards the centre and will keep moving towards the left.”

Beals said the Liberal nomination of a progressive Liberal is proof of this.

“Ted Hsu is a more progressive Liberal than even Peter Milliken was,” he said. “For someone like me who is a New Democrat, that gives me a lot of hope ... Kingston could vote NDP.

“Ideologically we’re most opposite to the Conservative Party. They would be furthest from us,” he said. “As far as votes go and the way the election plays out … it could very well be Liberal versus NDP.”

Beals said the riding of Kingston and the Islands has a strong NDP base.

“I actually think that people shouldn’t underestimate the NDP this time around,” he said, adding that NDP won a substantial amount of the vote in the last race for MP.

Candidate Rick Downes won 17.46 per cent of the Kingston and the Islands vote in 2008.

Maria Beaumaster, co-president of Queen’s NDP, said the frontrunners in the next election will be Ted Hsu and Daniel Beals because of the growing student population and community focus in Kingston and the Islands.

“Issues Kingston is dealing with are changing as well … I don’t think there’s a Conservative answer to that,” Beaumaster, ArtSci ’11, said. “Daniel Beals is extremely passionate about the community.”

“Even though Kingston and the Islands has been Liberal, people are going to be weary of a new candidate. Daniel has been out in the community for the last year.”

Green Party candidate Eric Walton agreed that Hsu’s fresh face may hinder the Liberal’s success streak.

“I think the incumbent [MP] resigning meant everything changed. I don’t think it mattered too much which Liberal won. The race became open,” he said, adding that this is in part due to voters’ disenchantment with Liberals and Conservatives.

“I think the real wild card in the next election is what the voters will do. I think voters recognize we’re in a transition time,” he said. “A lot will depend on the national party and leader.”

Walton said the Green Party will run to win.

“For two of the four candidates, this is their first time running. It’s tough? The first time on candidates. It’s a really steep learning curve,” he said. “[Green Party is] the only party taking climate change, anti-poverty and democracy seriously. I’m seeing less of a commitment to those issues [from the other parties].”

In the last two years, the Green Party has had consistent support across the country, Walton said, adding that this makes it more likely he’ll win a seat in Kingston and the Islands.

“We’re actually one of the strongest Green Parties in the world … getting 10, 11, 12 per cent of the polls.”

In the 2008 MP election, Walton received 10.97 per cent of the vote.

“It’s very likely we will finally be elected,” Walton said. “One more Liberal or Conservative won’t wake up the Parliament to some of these critical issues.”

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