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Federal parties organize on shifting landscape

Hundreds of federal Liberals attend the founding meeting of the party’s riding association for Steveston-Richmond East at Kwantlen Polytechnic University Tuesday. -
Hundreds of federal Liberals attend the founding meeting of the party’s riding association for Steveston-Richmond East at Kwantlen Polytechnic University Tuesday.
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Federal parties are beginning to mobilize their ground forces in Richmond ahead of an election that’s bringing major boundary changes to local ridings.

An estimated 500 Liberals gathered at Kwantlen Polytechnic University Tuesday for the founding meeting of the party’s riding association in Steveston-Richmond East—a riding without an incumbent.

The new riding is being formed from the current Delta-Richmond East, whose MP Kerry-Lynne Findlay is seeking the Conservative nomination in the new riding of Delta.

Shaun Govender, executive director of the Liberal Party of Canada in B.C., said this week’s turnout was higher than expected.

“People are very energized around the Liberal party and Justin Trudeau right now,” he said.

The city’s other riding, Richmond, is also getting new boundaries and the new name of Richmond Centre as part of a nationwide redistribution of federal electoral districts for the 2015 election. The Liberals’ annual general meeting there drew nearly 200 people, according to Govender.

“What we’re seeing in Richmond is echoed across the province. In places where we would have had four or five people in a room for an AGM, there were 50,” he said. “It’s a pretty positive swing in momentum for us right now.”

At least six people have expressed interest in running for the party in Steveston-Richmond East, and another five are mulling a run in Richmond Centre. Liberal insiders are considering that a coup for a party that finished over 17,000 votes back of the Conservatives in each of the local ridings.

Potential candidates are now starting to organize and signing up members in advance of a nomination meeting that could take place this fall or next spring.

In 2012 Liberal leader Justin Trudeau launched his leadership campaign in the west in Richmond, and has since made several public appearances here, including January’s Chinese New Year countdown at Aberdeen Centre.

Leaders of other federal parties have also taken notice of the Island City. Last week Prime Minister Stephen Harper made a stop in the new Steveston riding, and last month NDP leader Thomas Mulcair made his first Richmond appearance at a public event at Kwantlen.

The Conservatives formed their riding association in Steveston-Richmond East in December. President Eric Sykes said members are sorry to lose Findlay, but said there’s nonetheless optimism among Conservative ranks.

A few would-be candidates have expressed “a lot” of interest in contesting the nomination, said Sykes.

“We’re working on growing the membership and we’re working on raising money, and we’re beating the drum looking for prospective Conservative candidates,” he said.

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