Could Jody Wilson-Raybould win re-election as an independent in B.C.? It’s complicated, experts say
Former attorney general Jody Wilson-Raybould says she still hasn’t made up her mind on whether she’s running for re-election as an independent in her riding of Vancouver-Granville.
But political experts are mixed on whether such a run would be successful, or simply cause vote-splitting with her former party in October.
WATCH BELOW: ‘I didn’t have an endgame’, says Jody Wilson-Raybould on SNC-Lavalin scandal
In a wide-ranging interview with the West Block‘s Mercedes Stephenson, the now Independent MP said she joined the Liberal Party because she believed in its mission and that of its leader Justin Trudeau to “do politics differently” — and that she never wanted to “bring down” or sabotage the now-prime minister.
“I didn’t have an end game. I don’t have an end game,” Wilson-Raybould said about the fallout from the SNC-Lavalin affair, which forced the prime minister and the Liberal party to defend itself against claims they unfairly pressured Wilson-Raybould to intervene in a criminal case against the Montreal engineering firm.
“I was … just doing my job, and working hard to do a good job at it.”
The Globe and Mail first reported on Feb. 7, 2019, that there had been a campaign to pressure Wilson-Raybould to order the director of public prosecutions to give SNC-Lavalin a deal to avoid a criminal trial and potential conviction over charges of corruption and fraud.
The resulting backlash from the mounting scandal led Wilson-Raybould, who had already been shuffled from the role of justice minister and attorney general to minister of veteran’s affairs, to resign from Trudeau’s cabinet on Feb. 12.
WATCH BELOW: Jody Wilson-Raybould says she ‘had not heard any of these criticisms before this happened’
On Tuesday — following a high-profile testimony to the justice committee and the release of a recorded phone conversation between herself and Clerk of the Privy Council Michael Wernick that appeared to prove she was being pressured to intervene in the case — Wilson-Raybould was ejected from the Liberal caucus and barred to run for the party in the next election.
Wilson-Raybould has told her constituents she plans to talk to them about her next steps, including whether she could viably win re-election as an independent.
That prospect is a double-edged sword, UBC political science professor Gerald Baier says — not just for her campaign, but also for her effectiveness as a representative for her riding in the House of Commons.
“She’s the kind of person who can win as an independent,” Baier said. “But even the people who win as independents have a really marginal ability to affect what’s going on in Canadian public life.”
Baier said Wilson-Raybould is in a better position than other independents: she has name recognition and has developed a positive reputation as a “person of principle” for many voters over the course of the SNC-Lavalin affair.
But he adds not having a party identification could make it harder for her to get attention for local issues in Ottawa.
“She’s made it clear that she still identifies strongly with the Liberal brand,” Baier said. “She doesn’t have any interest of aligning with the Conservatives or the NDP. So she’d be out on her own, and that could hurt her.”
Baier said it’s also possible Wilson-Raybould could draw enough votes from the Liberals, while not earning enough votes herself, to allow a Conservative or NDP candidate to clinch a victory.
WATCH: Global News interview with Jody Wilson-Raybould
Close to 100 independent MPs have sat in the House of Commons since the country’s founding, but only a few have found success in British Columbia.
One famous example was Chuck Cadman. The Canadian Alliance MP for Surrey-North was a casualty of his party merging with the Progressive Conservatives to form the Conservative Party of Canada in 2003, ultimately losing that new party’s nomination. He ultimately won re-election as an independent in the 2004 election.
In B.C. politics, Vicki Huntington won two elections in her riding of Delta South without a party affiliation, starting with a razor-thin race in 2009 that had to be decided through a judicial recount. She was the first independent MLA to be elected in B.C. since 1949.
WATCH: What power to independent politicians hold? Keith Baldrey explains
In a statement Friday, the Vancouver-Granville Federal Liberal Electoral District Association thanked Wilson-Raybould for her service, and said it would be meeting with the Liberal Party and supporters “to discuss our path forward.”
—With files from Amanda Connolly, Nadia Stewart and Keith Baldrey
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