By Kevin Werner, News Staff
The federal and provincial Liberal parties are joining forces in next year’s election campaign that they hope will see the end of Prime Minister Stephen Harper’s reign.
“It’s all hands on deck,” said Mountain resident Tyler Banham, recently acclaimed as the youngest president of the Liberal Party of Canada (Ontario).
One of his platform goals in his campaign is to work closely with Liberal MPPs, something that has been missing in past federal elections. He said Ontario Liberals were surprised Conservative MPs intervened in the recent provincial election in an attempt to get rid of Liberal leader Kathleen Wynne.
Banham pointed out Ancaster-Dundas-Flamborough-Westdale MP David Sweet publicly aligned with the provincial candidate Donna Skelly in her race against cabinet minister Ted McMeekin. The veteran MPP held off Skelly and won the race, but not without some hard feelings about Sweet’s support for his competitor.
“It was Harper’s decision to go after Kathleen Wynne,” said the 35-year-old Banham.
He said if the Conservatives are interested in a provincial fight, then they should be ready for a federal battle next year, he said.
“That’s why I have introduced the ‘One Big Red Machine,’ to unite Ontario Liberals,” he said.
So far the Liberals have about 90 federal candidates nominated inOntario, under the suspicion that Harper will call an election when he introduces his budget next spring rather than wait until October, as required under the Canada Elections Act. By the end of this year Banham hopes to have a candidate nominated in every one ofOntario’s 121 ridings.
In theHamiltonarea Anne Tennier was nominated in the Hamilton Centre riding. There are three people seeking the Hamilton West-Ancaster-Dundas nomination; Hamilton Mountain, of which Banham remains the federal riding president, there are four potential candidates including Shaun Burt who has received approval from party officials; Hamilton East-Stoney Creek has a “very high profile” candidate seeking the “green light” from the party, while in the new riding of Flamborough-Glanbrook, two potential candidates are looking to run. Banham said a nomination meeting for the new Hamilton West-Ancaster-Dundas riding will be held either in September or October. The otherHamiltonridings are expected to have their nomination meetings by the end of the year.Burlingtonhas already scheduled a nomination meeting Aug. 19.
For Conservatives, current Ancaster-Dundas-Flamborough-Westdale MP David Sweet was quietly nominated in the new riding of Flamborough-Glanbrook, while Burlington MP Mike Wallace was acclaimed for his riding. The Conservatives have nominated about 100 candidates inOntarioso far this year. Conservatives candidates have been campaigning for the nomination in the new riding of Hamilton West-Ancaster-Dundas, expected later this year.
The NDP’s Hamilton East-Stoney Creek MP Wayne Marston was acclaimed at his nomination meeting held last month.
Banham is looking atBurlington, along withHamilton,WindsorandOshawaas potential wins for the party in traditionally held by either Conservatives or NDP MPs. He said asBurlington, and parts of Halton went Liberal in the provincial election for the first time in decades, he calculates that could happen in the federal election too.
“We have some great chances inHamilton,” said Banham. “For the first time we have a centre-left plan to target (Hamilton, Windsor) ridings.”
And it doesn’t hurt that Liberal leader Justin Trudeau has proven extremely popular with the public when he has visitedHamiltonthis year, attracting large crowds inDundasand at the Sheraton Hotel.
“There are some people who have a nostalgia for (former Liberal Prime Minister) Pierre Trudeau (Justin’s) father,” he said. “People want to do selfies with Justin. People just stop him and want to take a photo with him.”
Banham, who is charged with returningOntarioback into the Liberal fold, is reviewing various polling results and sees the Liberals’ rise in popularity, while the NDP’s support continues to drop.
“We’re pretty happy,” he said.
Banham had been the Liberal Party of Canada (Ontario)’s executive vice president for the last two and a half years — elected with 87 per cent of the vote — and is expected to remain the president for at least two years, possibly longer if another federal election occurs. It’s a possibility if next year’s contest results in a minority Parliament, he said.
Banham, aHamiltonlawyer, who has spent about 23 of his 35 years in Liberal politics became involved by his mother in politics when he helped to form the Young Liberals on the Mountain.
“I tell volunteers now ‘It’s a great time to be involved with the party’,” he said.
The party will be holding its annual general meeting inMarkhamSept. 12 to 14 to vote on its new executive.